Netsuke: 100 miniature masterpieces from Japan
Netsuke have once again come to the fore in the popular imagination of the public. In part this is due to the phenomenal success of Edmund De Waal’s 2010 book, Hare with the Amber Eyes, which highlights a treasured netsuke collection that was challenged by war and the vicissitudes of time. Intricately carved from various materials including ivory, wood and metal, these small toggles served a practical purpose in Japan: a netsuke was used to fasten a man’s sash, an integral part of Japanese costume. Up until the seventeenth century netsuke were relatively insignificant objects that were rarely of artistic interest, but as time passed they evolved in terms of both materials and workmanship, and were then used by men to flaunt their wealth or as an expression of status. Today netsuke are considered an art form in their own right and are prized by collectors around the world. They are found in a variety of forms and depict a wide range of subjects – including figures of human and legendary form, ghosts, animals, botanical subjects and masks. Skilfully worked, these miniature carvings are of great artistic value, but they also provide a window into Japanese culture and society. This book brings together one hundred of the most beautiful and interesting netsuke from the extensive collection of the British Museum, each of which has its own special charm and story to tell. Uncovering the stories behind these netsuke and coupling them with stunning new photography, this book reveals why these tiny objects have captivated so many, the meaning they have held for those who wore them, and what they can tell us about Japanese everyday life.