Netsuke

ca. 1825-1875 (made)
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Japan, Room 45, The Toshiba Gallery
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

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 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 Daruma, the founder of Zen Buddhism. In his search for religious enlightenment, he is believed to have meditated in a cave for nine years, during which his arms and legs atrophied. It is for this reason that he is often shown as a rounded form of head and body without any limbs. During the Edo period (1615 – 1868) in Japan, he is often depicted as a roly-poly toy that rights itself when knocked down.
Both wood and ivory were traditionally the most widely used materials for making netsuke. Since trees grow abundantly throughout Japan, wood is not only readily available but many varieties are comparatively cheap. There is also a long tradition of expertise in wood carving in Japan.
From the 18th century onwards, netsuke were increasingly signed with the artist’s name. This example is signed Sukenaga, short for Matsuda Sukenaga (1800 - 1871).


object details
Category
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Carved wood
Brief Description
Netsuke depicting Daruma in carved wood, signed Sukenaga, ca. 1825 - 1875
Physical Description
This carved wood netsuke is in the form of Daruma.
Dimensions
  • Height: 4.1cm
Style
Credit line
Clarke-Thornhill gift
Subject depicted
Summary
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 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 Daruma, the founder of Zen Buddhism. In his search for religious enlightenment, he is believed to have meditated in a cave for nine years, during which his arms and legs atrophied. It is for this reason that he is often shown as a rounded form of head and body without any limbs. During the Edo period (1615 – 1868) in Japan, he is often depicted as a roly-poly toy that rights itself when knocked down.

Both wood and ivory were traditionally the most widely used materials for making netsuke. Since trees grow abundantly throughout Japan, wood is not only readily available but many varieties are comparatively cheap. There is also a long tradition of expertise in wood carving in Japan.

From the 18th century onwards, netsuke were increasingly signed with the artist’s name. This example is signed Sukenaga, short for Matsuda Sukenaga (1800 - 1871).
Collection
Accession Number
A.23-1919

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record createdMarch 11, 2003
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