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 Japanese mythical dog ivory netsuke, C1920. Signed to base. Height 3 cm

Taisho ivory carved netsuke of two rats Nibbling on Mushrooms signed faintly to base, length 4.3 cm, weight 16g

Taisho ivory carved netsuke figure of a sleeping boy with painted & etched detail, signed, with a scrolled timber stand, length 4.5 cm, weight 27g

Meiji ivory carved netsuke figure of a scholar signed to the base, height 5 cm

Japanese carved boxwood netsuke of carp with ivory eyes, signed by the artist

An ivory netsuke, a gentleman and child with a pet turtle, signature to base

Antique Japanese ivory rabbit netsuke, C:1920, carved rabbit with red stone eyes, accompanied by tortoise to base. Signed to base. Cannot be exported without CITES documentation. Height three cm

Two Japanese ivory netsuke, Edo period, late 19th century, one signed Asahi Gyokuzan, the first a netsuke in ivory of a kneeling skeleton with skull signed Asahi Gyokuzan, the second an ivory netsuke figure of a seated Buddhist monk with an alms bowl, rubb

A Japanese ivory netsuke, Meiji period (1868-1912), signed 'Hideichi, 7.6 cm high

Antique Japanese ivory netsuke, depicting a man holding a musical instrument, 5 cm high .

Antique Japanese ivory lion dog netsuke, signed to base, 3 cm high

Antique Japanese ivory seated man netsuke, late 19th century, 3.5 cm high

Signed ivory netsuke of immortal with turtle on his back

An old Japanese carved ivory Manju netsuke, carved in relief with a fierce figure confronting a mythical dragon, fine detail, carved character marks to the reverse. Diameter 5.3 cm

A 19th century Japanese carved ivory Manju netsuke, circular disc form, incised carved with a mythical beast, double signed character mark to reverse, black stained recessed detail. Diameter 5.3 cm

A Meiji Japanese carved ivory netsuke, the two seated figures decorating a large Daruma doll, fine detail, character marks to base.

An old Japanese carved ivory netsuke of an old farmer, a gourd tied to his shoulders. Length 7 cm

An old Japanese carved ivory netsuke of a traveller, his goods wrapped in a large parcel upon his back, a pup to his feet.

A 19th century Japanese carved ivory netsuke of two pups, one upon the back of the other, good old yellow tone and polish. Character mark signature to base.

A Meiji period Japanese carved ivory netsuke, the seated woman feeding from a bowl, incised character marks to tablet on base.

A small ivory netsuke, a study of a Dutchman, standing wearing a voluminous cape and flat cap. Height 4 cm

A Japanese carved ivory netsuke, late-19th century depicting a rat on a coiled hank of rope. Inlaid black horn eyes. Signed, length 6.5 cm

A netsuke type carved ivory figure of two back to back Hotei figures, both with smiling expression, seated with bare chest and fat stomach. Painted inkwork decoration, signed

Japanese ivory netsuke, early 20th century, depicting a squirrel on a chestnut, details engraved and stained with ink, red incised signature to underside, single himotoshi, together with Japanese Negoro lacquer netsuke of Shishi, lying with its cub, unsign

Japanese wood and ivory netsuke, Meiji period, 19th century, the crouching figure wearing an ivory kendo mask, his garment engraved with geometric motifs, unsigned, single himotoshi, height 4.8 cm. Provenance: Christie's, London, October 1989, lot 6197

Japanese ivory netsuke, Meiji period, late 19th century, by Minjo, depicting two sumo wrestlers, details engraved and stained with ink, signed on an inlaid red lacquer tablet, single himotoshi, height 5 cm

Ivory and lacquered netsuke, Meiji period, late 19th/early 20th century, probably by Kokoku, the seated figure depicted cleaning the floor, wearing a stained and lacquered garment inlaid with mother-of-pearl, signed and inlaid red tablet to underside, leng

Ivory netsuke of a Shishi, Edo period, 19th century, the mythical animal with its cub, shown on a pierced ball enclosing a small stained ivory ball, the eyes inlaid with blue glass, signed, height 3.5 cm

Antique Japanese ivory netsuke, depicting a man holding a fan, signed to base, 4 cm high NB These may not be exported without CITES documentation.

Antique Japanese ivory netsuke, depicting a man holding a fish, signed to base, 4 cm high NB These may not be exported without CITES documentation.

An antique signed ivory netsuke of a Mandarin duck, Edo period, 19th century, with signature of Tomokazu, the seated mandarin duck or oshidori finely engraved and inked to delineate feathers; signed underside; with valuation certificate from Hikari Traders

Early 20th century Japanese ivory netsuke. Fukurokuju with his staff, accompanied by five attendants, all standing atop a dragon turtle. Signed. Height 6 cm

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