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  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    November 1987 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Webb, Michael, born 1934 (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved dyed and stained boxwood

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Susan and John Moor

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Japan, Room 45, The Toshiba Gallery, case 8

The netsuke is a toggle. Japanese men used netsuke to suspend various pouches and containers from their sashes by a silk cord. Netsuke had to be small and not too heavy, yet bulky enough to do the job. They needed to be compact with no sharp protruding edges, yet also strong and hardwearing. Above all they had to have the means of attaching the cord. Netsuke were traditionally made in a variety of forms, the most widely appreciated is the katabori (shape carving). This example is a three-dimensional carving in the form of a dragonfly with outstretched wings on a bog arum leaf.

With the adoption of Western dress from the mid nineteenth century onwards, netsuke were no longer used as functional items. There has never been a time, however, when netsuke stopped being made as collectors’ items, both in Japan and world-wide. Here in Great Britain there is a well-established tradition which includes Michael Webb (1934- ) as one of the foremost carvers. In 1976 Webb left the auctioneering world to devote his time entirely to carving and painting. His netsuke are extremely accomplished, showing a preference for animal subjects carved in boxwood, such as this example which is stained.

Physical description

This netsuke is in the form of a dragonfly with outstretched wings on a bog arum leaf with holes, blemishes and indentations on the upper and lower surfaces and edges, suggesting insect damage. The stalk on the underside curls down before turning back to the leaf, thereby providing the means for attaching a cord.

Place of Origin

England (made)


November 1987 (made)


Webb, Michael, born 1934 (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Carved dyed and stained boxwood

Marks and inscriptions

MJW incised on the stalk for Michael Webb


Length: 5.2 cm, Width: 5.0 cm, Depth: 2.3 cm

Descriptive line

Netsuke in the form of a dragonfly on a bog arum leaf, carved boxwood, by Michael Webb, English, 1987




Carving; Dyeing; Staining

Subjects depicted

Dragonfly; Leaf (plant material)




East Asia Collection

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