Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Japan, Room 45, The Toshiba Gallery

Netsuke

ca. 1700-ca. 1750 (made)
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. 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 one.

This netsuke of a woman and a child is influenced by the Christian image of the Madonna and Child. Around 1580, a thriving ivory carving industry developed in China, centred on Zhangzhou, Fujian province. It produced many religious images for the Portuguese and Spanish on the Asian mainland. The image of the Madonna and Child was widely used in China. It was similar to the Chinese songzi (child-giving) Guanyin (bodhisattva embodying compassion). Many of these Chinese carvings reached Japan. This most unusual netsuke possibly reflects how the religious image became a general image of a mother and child.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Carved ivory
Brief Description
Netsuke, ivory, woman and a child, ca.1700-50
Physical Description
This carved ivory netsuke is in the form of a mother holding a naked child to her body, who is looking up at her, while the mother is wearing a simple kimono, which is thrown down off her right arm and shoulder.
Dimensions
  • Height: 7.0cm
Style
Credit line
Salting Bequest
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. 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 one.



This netsuke of a woman and a child is influenced by the Christian image of the Madonna and Child. Around 1580, a thriving ivory carving industry developed in China, centred on Zhangzhou, Fujian province. It produced many religious images for the Portuguese and Spanish on the Asian mainland. The image of the Madonna and Child was widely used in China. It was similar to the Chinese songzi (child-giving) Guanyin (bodhisattva embodying compassion). Many of these Chinese carvings reached Japan. This most unusual netsuke possibly reflects how the religious image became a general image of a mother and child.
Collection
Accession Number
A.875-1910

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record createdDecember 15, 1999
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