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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These items are not for sale and the descriptions, images and prices are for reference purposes only.

Japanese Kuroyaki netsuke of a Mouse, Meiji period, 19th century, with inlaid eyes, holding a nut, unsigned, length 4.3 cm

Japanese wood netsuke figural group, Edo period, 19th century, by Gyokuzan, depicting an oni washing a man’s back in a bath, signed to underside, height 3.6 cm

Black lacquer two-case Inro, Meiji period, decorated with two dragonflies with mother-of pearl inlaid wings, the interior of nashiji and red lacquer, with ojime and tsuishu lacquer netsuke, height 7.4 cm width 8.5 cm

A Japanese wooden manju netsuke of Chinese figures at a table under fir trees, signed, Meiji period (1868-1912), 6 cm diameter

Rare 19th century netsuke in carved ebony showing two theatrical masks, opening to reveal a group of three gentlemen seated internally

Quality Japanese carved wooden netsuke in the form of a tiger, signed

19th century carved netsuke of an elderly man with frog on should (possibly reconstructed amber)

Antique Japanese carved netsuke, probably antler, 4 cm high approx.

Japanese netsuke of a boy riding an ox & a Chinese deeply carved tusk 20th century, with moutainouse landscape, signature to base of netsuke [2], condition: missing part of point to tusk, tusk Length 17 cm, H 5 cm

A Japanese bone netsuke of the God of Longevity, seated with a child at his feet. Provenance: Adelaide collector. Height 3.5

An iIvory netsuke, depicting seated sage with an oversized smiling face. Provenance: Adelaide collector. Height 3 cm

A finely carved bone netsuke, of a sage with an unfurled scroll. Provenance: Adelaide collector. Height 3.25 cm

An amber netsuke, featuring a rabbit, signed

A wood netsuke, of a man with large mussels on legs & arms & a very thin body, revealing his rib cage on his back, he is holding a barrel with a coral sprig. Height 4 cm

An bone netsuke of a man carrying an oversized sack on his right shoulder, his tummy exposed. Height 3.75 cm

A Japanese boxwood netsuke, carved with snakes and Frogs, signed Tomonobu, depicting a frog perched upon a pumpkin, a snake peering out from within, inscribed signature to the underside, 5.5 cm wide

A wooden netsuke of a snarling wolf with inlaid eyes and with his paw on a turtle, signed, Edo period

A wooden netsuke crouching karashishi holding a pieced ball, Meiji period

A wooden netsuke of a bear with inset eyes, signed, Meiji period

A wooden netsuke of a toad with inset eyes, signed, Meiji period

A Japanese cinnabar lacquer inro decorated with kirin and chrysanthemum and a wooden pea pod netsuke, Meiji period

A wooden netsuke of a toad on a roof tile, signed, 19th century

Two Japanese inro & netsuke, [2], 1] Edo Biwa zu Makie Inro and signed Netsuke, Edo period, c. 1750-1850, Biwa zu (four-stringed Japanese lute) and reverse with mother of pearl inlay on a background, Technique: Kuro Urushinuri Raden Morimakie, Netsuke: (wo

A 19th century Japanese wood netsuke of a witch, popular subject matter of witch squatting beneath a peasants hat and holding a cane, signed, 3 cm high

A 18th /19th century Japanese wood netsuke, Edo period, depicting a Sennin. 9.4 cm high

A 19th century Japanese wood netsuke, the form of a cicada on branch, a popular subject matter for this artist, signed Harumitsu, 5.5 cm high. Provenance: J Neumann collection

A 18th century wooden netsuke, Nanbanjin (Foreigner), large piece with oversized himotoshi consistent with the period. Child on main figures back bearing a coral fish, unsigned, 9 cm high

A 19th century Japanese wooden netsuke of a Grazing horse, Edo period, unsigned, 5 cm high

A 19th century Japanese box wood netsuke, snake and skull, the snake entwined and enveloped with a skull, with inscribed signature, 3 cm high.