Studio: international art — 2.1894

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1 cm
[apanese Netsukes

HE ART OF CUt P01^011 f°rming a loop which serves for the

COLLECTING. ™ pUrp°^ ■ ' , fl J

I TAPANESE seems doubtful when netsukes were first used

" ~, _ „ TT Tr „ „ or inros worn ; they are said to date from the time


BY EDWARD GIL- k Toshimasa
BERTSON. (I436-i49°), but
Japanese Netsukes, of this I have no
on their first appear- other evidence,
ance in Europe, excited They must, at
the admiration and at- any rate, have
tendon of collectors of existed in some
very varied tastes. Some form when to-
were attracted by their bacco was used,
quaint or grotesque and that was in-
character, for the comic troduced about
element is very strongly 1605; but the
developed among Japa- artistic netsuke

nese artists of the appears to have been first known about the time

popular school; others of Nobunaga (1533-1582), and the first profes-

appreciated them as sional carver of netsukes to have been Rifuho, or

illustrations of the his- Hinaya, who died in 1670. The interval between

tory, myths, folk-lore, the first and the last of these dates, that is, the

and daily life of the first quarter of the seventeenth century, is that to

nation ; while a third which may probably be assigned a peculiar class

class was chiefly struck of wooden netsukes, concerning which nothing

by the minuteness of seems to be known to us. They are of a

their details and exqui- considerable size, as much sometimes as six

site finish, rivalling the inches in length, and, as a rule, exhibit little

carved ivories of the artistic skill or anatomical knowledge. They

Chinese without their represent personages more or less sacred, such as

hardness and mechanical character. But artists Rishis, Kwanyu, Shoki, &c, or founders of the

were attracted, and often surprised, by the various Buddhist sects. We find them, however,

evidences of artistic knowledge and feeling they of much later date, of superior execution, and

often exhibited. A French writer on art described signed by good artists; some of these are of ivory,

some netsukes as "great works on a small scale," but they are generally inferior to the wooden ones,

and spoke of one of their makers as " the Michael In Gonse's "Japan," plate 11, of vol. 2, one of the

Angelo of Netsukes." large netsukes representing Shoki is given.

It is chiefly from this latter point of view that I The first

propose to treat of these charming little objects, signed netsukes

from which much that is valuable may be learned we meet with

by art workmen. In estimating the merit of a are those by

netsuke, it is well to bear in mind the purpose for Zoshimura Shi-

which it was designed. The inro, or medicine box, u z a n, w h o

and the pipe-case and tobacco pouch, were sus- worked in the

pended from the girdle by a silk cord, at the end of early part of

which was the netsuke, to prevent them from falling the eighteenth

through. The okimono, on the contrary, although century, and

sometimes little larger than the netsuke, was placed whose netsukes

in the " tokonoma," a recess in the principal are generally

apartment, in which alone ornamental objects were painted. That,

arranged. The netsuke is easily distinguished at any rate, is

from the okimono by the two holes in the former the characteristic of his work given in vol. 7 of

for the passage of the silk cord, or by an under- the S/wken Kisho, where examples of several of

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