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  • Place of origin:

    Japan (made)

  • Date:

    Ca. 1775 - 1850 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved ivory

  • Credit Line:

    Dresden Bequest

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    On display in Values of Design, Design Society, Shekou, China

The netsuke is a toggle. Japanese men used netsuke to suspend various pouches and containers from their sash 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 for attaching a cord. Netsuke were made in a variety of forms, the most widely appreciated being the katabori (shape carving), a three-dimensional carving, such as this one in the form of an octopus. The main inspiration for netsuke subjects was the natural world, most commonly animals, birds and sea creatures. Since fish and sea creatures traditionally played a large part in the Japanese diet, its frequency as a subject is understandable.

Both wood and ivory were traditionally the most widely used materials for making netsuke. This example is carved from ivory, which was an expensive luxury material. At the time this netsuke was carved, only ivory from the Indian elephant was used and was imported by Chinese and Dutch traders.

Physical description

This netsuke, carved from ivory, is in the form of an octopus standing on a base, the underside of which is carved with two characters in relief suggesting it was intended to be used as a seal.

Place of Origin

Japan (made)


Ca. 1775 - 1850 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Carved ivory


Height: 3.8 cm

Descriptive line

Netsuke in the form of an octopus, carved ivory, Japan, ca. 1775-1850.





Subjects depicted



Accessories; Interiors; Household objects; Shekou; Values of Design; Design Society


East Asia Collection

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