Learn about Netsuke

As the kimono, the traditional form of Japanese dress, had no pockets, the Japanese men suspended small items they needed to take with them, such as tobacco pouches, purses, pipes and writing implements on a silk cord from their sash, and stop the cord slipping, it was fed through a toggle - a netsuke.

Originally the toggle was made from found objects such as roots or shells, which were selected for their aesthetic appeal, but over time the toggle itself developed as an art form. Many fine carvers devoted themselves to netsuke, but the demand was so great, that their manufacture was taken up by other craft persons such as lacquerers, metal artists and potters.

While ivory is the most commonly used material, netsuke were also made from wood, bone, lacquer, metal and other materials.

The custom of wearing netsuke flourished in Japan for more than three centuries - from around 1600 to the mid 19th century, but the golden age of the netsuke is considered to be from 1800 to 1850. The custom developed in the 16th century when tobacco smoking using a pipe was introduced by the Portuguese. more...

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Antique ivory man of longevity netsuke, circa 1920s, 4.5 cm high approx. NB. This item cannot be exported.

Antique Asian carved ivory snake netsuke, signed to base, width 3.5 cm approx

An ivory netsuke of seated man holding a large lotus Pod, a small & large hole to the underside. Provenance: Adelaide collector, height 3 cm

An ivory netsuke, depicting demon with large sack over his shoulder. Height 2.8 cm

An ivory netsuke, depicting child riding upon the shoulders of a seated figure, signed to base, the child holding a Daruma. Provenance: Adelaide collector. Height 4.75 cm

An ivory netsuke, Noh actors wearing masks, signature to base, one a ferocious dog leaning on a lucky mallet. Provenance: Adelaide collector. Height 2.75 cm

An ivory netsuke, depicting two actors, the taller wearing fox mask, Kitsune, terrorising seated figure. Provenance: Adelaide collector. Height 3.8 cm

A Japanese ivory netsuke of a standing figure holding a bowl, two daruma one sleeping the other seated, unsigned. Provenance: Adelaide collector. Height 4 cm

An ivory netsuke of a Coiled snake, signed with wooden stand.

An ivory netsuke of a Recumbent buffalo, signed with wooden stand.

An ivory netsuke of Babe, signed with wooden stand.

An ivory netsuke of a Recumbent goat, signed with wooden stand.

An ivory netsuke of a Zoomorphic horse, signed with wooden stand.

Ivory netsuke, modelled as a man holding a mask across his legs, his coat engraved with yellow flowers, signed, height 3.7 cm

Antique carved ivory temple dog figure / netsuke, 4 cm high approx

Antique carved ivory figure on a boat netsuke, signed to base, 6 cm wide approx

Signed carved ivory netsuke cluster of six grotesque masks

An ivory netsuke, depicting a monk beating a drum, signature to base. Provenance: Adelaide collector. Height 3.25 cm

An ivory netsuke, depicting a man carrying a large sack in the shape of a peach on his back, holding tightly to the twisted rope. Provenance: Adelaide collector. Height 4.5 cm

A finely carved ivory netsuke of Hotei tying his a cane basket of treasures with a large rope. Height 3.75 cm