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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



an ornamental piece of sculpture measuring from 2 to 10 cm high and made from wood, ivory, or metal. Netsukes were popular in Japan from the late 17th to the 19th century. They were used as toggles to attach a pipe or a tobacco pouch to the sash of a kimono.

The best-known types of netsukes were figurines, which were sometimes arranged to form entire compositions dealing with religious, folkloric, historical, and genre subjects. Other popular netsukes resembled flat disks and often had a carved metallic insert in the center. Netsuke figures maintain an overall monolithic plastic quality, although they are often very emotionally expressive and are fine and accurate in detail. Famous netsuke masters included Suzan (18th century), Rusa (second half of the 18th century), and Tamotada (late 18th and early 19th centuries).


Ueda Reikichi. The Netsuke Handbook. Tokyo, 1961.
Wolf, R. Die Welt der Netsue. Wiesbaden, 1970.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Antique ivory Japanese netsuke. Image Credit: Supplied NYT
LONDON - In his award-winning biography, "The Hare With Amber Eyes," British ceramic artist Edmund de Waal tells the story of his family through its collection of Japanese netsuke carvings.
Netsuke are ornamental toggles made mainly out of ivory or wood and used to fasten things to the sash of a kimono.
He writes in his book how a disapproving neighbour, surprised by the sight of such a precious object in a private house, suggested that the netsuke should be returned to Japan.
How many of those relatively humble Japanese netsuke carvings, for example, will pass the "rarest and most important" test?
Also highlighting the event are Ming Dynasty porcelains (including 15th- and 16th-century examples) and carved jades from a second prestigious East Coast collection; and a collection of rare contemporary carved netsuke and Ojime pieces.
David Bowden, the oriental arts dealer showed me some find Netsuke including a miniature ivory elephant studded with rubies and diamonds which could well have come from the studios of the great Russian jeweller, Faberge.
Included in the haul were 20 oil paintings by 19th Century English artists, some worth up to pounds 5,000 each, 119 flintlock pistols worth more than pounds 5,000, 14 Nazi dress daggers worth more than pounds 3,500, eight flintlock brass blunderbusses worth around pounds 2,000, 48 Victorian police truncheons worth pounds 4,000, and a collection of Japanese Netsukes figures which may fetch from pounds 500 each.