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  • Place of origin:

    Japan (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1750-1850 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved marine ivory

  • Credit Line:

    Pritchett Gift

  • 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 hard-wearing. 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 a rat on a capsicum seed.

Netsuke were made from a large number of materials, most commonly wood or ivory. Apart from elephant ivory, various other types of ivory were used, such as this unusual netsuke carved from a sperm-whale tooth. This material is denser and harder than elephant ivory. Through the skill of the carver, the outer, upper part of the tooth was mostly pared down, leaving a small rat carved out of the tooth itself. The top, stem end of the capsicum seed can be removed, allowing the cord to be attached on the inside, where a space was left by the tooth’s nerve.

Place of Origin

Japan (made)


ca. 1750-1850 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Carved marine ivory


Length: 8.9 cm

Descriptive line

Netsuke of a rat on a capsicum, carved sperm whale tooth, ca. 1750 - 1850




Carving; Staining

Subjects depicted

Rat (animal)




East Asia Collection

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