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  • Place of origin:

    Japan (made)

  • Date:

    19th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Masanao (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved Boxwood

  • Credit Line:

    Salting Bequest

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

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. In this example, there are a pair of holes (himotoshi) on the bottom of the sandal. Although netsuke were made in a variety of forms, the most widely appreciated is the katabori (shape carving). This is a three- dimensional carving, such as this netsuke of a baby.

From the 18th century onwards, many more makers signed their netsukes. This example is signed Masanao. It is one of a small but distinctive regional group from Yamada, Ise province. The line originated with Masanao I (1815-90), although there were four other Masanaos, as well as various pupils who used the same 'masa' character in their name. Generations of Masanao craftsmen worked almost exclusively in wood, especially boxwood. They made detailed and realistic netsuke, such as this one. The Masanao line produced a wide range of subjects, but they specialised in animals. This netsuke of a baby depicts the simple detailing associated with Masanao family netsukes. It is this detailing that subtly suffuses the design with a naturalism and animation.

Physical description

Netsuke in wood of a child crawling, signed by Masanao

Place of Origin

Japan (made)


19th century (made)


Masanao (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Carved Boxwood

Marks and inscriptions

Signed Masanao


Height: 2.86 cm, Length: 4.45 cm

Descriptive line

Netsuke, wood, child crawling, signed by Masanao, 19th century, Japan








East Asia Collection

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