Netsuke open the door to almost every aspect of Japanese life seen in miniature.
So intricate and delicate, even humorous at times, is their carving that in the West it is often forgotten that netsuke served a functional purpose as small toggles. They were to stop the cord slipping on the sash, which hung the small objects that every man needed to carry around with him - his tobacco pouch, pipe, purse and yatate (a combined writing-brush and ink-well). Before the seventeenth century netsuke were insignificant objects and rarely of artistic interest. With increasing prosperity, merchants, often rich and enlightened patrons of the arts, were not allowed to flaunt their riches and so fine netsuke were a means by which a merchant could express his wealth in a not too noticeable form. Today fine netsuke are appreciated not only for their workmanship but also for the glimpses of Japanese legend and everyday life that they give in such beguiling ways. They exist in many different kinds of material, often specially and cleverly selected to reflect the object they represent. Richard Baker and Lawrence Smith have selected 404 of the best and most interesting netsuke from the British Museum. Every piece is illustrated, including signatures of carvers where present, and the introductory text fits the pieces in their context and comments on their place in the world of netsuke. Notes on the carvers, their schools and areas of work are an important and useful feature which will be of great value to all the collectors together with the comprehensive illustrated coverage.
Published by British Museum Publications Limited, London, United Kingdom, 1976
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