Netsuke (Japanese miniature sculpture)

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Netsuke (Japanese miniature sculpture)

Post  eddie on Wed May 11, 2011 7:47 pm


Monkey.

Wiki:

Netsuke (Japanese:根付) are miniature sculptures that were invented in 17th-century Japan to serve a practical function (the two Japanese characters ne+tsuke mean "root" and "to attach"). Traditional Japanese garments—robes called kosode and kimono—had no pockets; however, men who wore them needed a place to store their personal belongings, such as pipes, tobacco, money, seals, or medicines.

Their solution was to place such objects in containers (called sagemono) hung by cords from the robes' sashes (obi). The containers may have been pouches or small woven baskets, but the most popular were beautifully crafted boxes (inro), which were held shut by ojime, which were sliding beads on cords. Whatever the form of the container, the fastener that secured the cord at the top of the sash was a carved, button-like toggle called a netsuke.

Netsuke, like the inro and ojime, evolved over time from being strictly utilitarian into objects of great artistic merit and an expression of extraordinary craftsmanship. Such objects have a long history reflecting the important aspects of Japanese folklore and life. Netsuke production was most popular during the Edo period in Japan, around 1615-1868. Today, the art lives on, and some modern works can command high prices in the UK, Europe, the USA, Japan and elsewhere. Inexpensive yet faithful reproductions are available in museums and souvenir shops.


In this image, a man wears an inro supported by a netsuke passed through the ties of his hakama.

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Re: Netsuke (Japanese miniature sculpture)

Post  eddie on Wed May 11, 2011 7:50 pm


Anabori Netsuke.

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Re: Netsuke (Japanese miniature sculpture)

Post  eddie on Wed May 11, 2011 7:52 pm


Katabori netsuke.

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Re: Netsuke (Japanese miniature sculpture)

Post  eddie on Wed May 11, 2011 7:53 pm


Mask netsuke.

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Re: Netsuke (Japanese miniature sculpture)

Post  eddie on Wed May 11, 2011 7:55 pm


Obi-hasami sashi netsuke

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Re: Netsuke (Japanese miniature sculpture)

Post  eddie on Wed May 11, 2011 7:56 pm


Manju netsuke.

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Re: Netsuke (Japanese miniature sculpture)

Post  eddie on Wed May 11, 2011 7:57 pm


Ryusa netsuke.

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Re: Netsuke (Japanese miniature sculpture)

Post  eddie on Wed May 11, 2011 7:59 pm


Kagamibuta netsuke.

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Re: Netsuke (Japanese miniature sculpture)

Post  eddie on Wed May 11, 2011 8:00 pm


Trick netsuke.

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Re: Netsuke (Japanese miniature sculpture)

Post  eddie on Wed May 11, 2011 8:04 pm


Front of Buddha netsuke made of mammoth ivory.


Rear of same netsuke. Note the two holes which would have been used to hold a cord.

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Re: Netsuke (Japanese miniature sculpture)

Post  eddie on Wed May 11, 2011 8:13 pm

The Hare With Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance by Edmund de Waal

The potter believes in the existential hum of objects, but this tale of a family heirloom misses the bigger picture

Rachel Cooke The Observer, Sunday 6 June 2010

Edmund de Waal is a potter, perhaps the most famous potter working in Britain today. His bowls and beakers, thrown in porcelain and glazed in celadon, are domestic, – in theory, you could fill them with hot tea – but they also exist in a more contemplative realm; arranged in pale lines and marked by various dents and asymmetries, they whisper a story of limitless but rather fragile possibility. This is what they say: that the potter may throw any shape he likes; that no two of his pots will ever be precisely the same; and that a pot may disappear – crash! – in an instant. I find them exquisite, but I'm not sure that I would ever want to own a row. As an ever-present metaphor for human endeavour, I fear they would slowly drive me mad.


The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance by Edmund De Waal

In his memoir, de Waal alludes early on to the existential hum some objects emit. Things do "retain the pulse of their making" and this intrigues him: "There is a breath of hesitancy before touching or not touching, a strange moment. If I choose to pick up this small white cup with its single chip near the handle, will it figure in my life?" De Waal believes the way objects are handed on has as much to do with storytelling as happenstance. You know the drill: this belonged to your aunt, who looked just like you. But such anecdotes, prettified over time, obscure as well as reveal and this worries him (he's always worrying).

De Waal has inherited 264 Japanese netsuke – wood and ivory carvings of animals, plants and people, none larger than the palm of his hand – from his beloved great uncle Iggie, and though they're a relatively recent arrival at his London home, already he fears their story is growing too "poised". A netsuke is a "small, tough explosion of exactitude". It deserves exactitude in return. "I want to know what the relationship has been between this wooden object that I am rolling between my fingers and where it has been." So, leaving his studio in the care of others, off he went. He would tell their story.

Where does it begin? Paris. The netsuke were bought from a dealer there in the 1870s by Charles Ephrussi, a relative of his great grandfather, Viktor. Charles, scion of the fabulously rich Jewish banking family and one of the models for Proust's aesthete Charles Swann, is a collector who once bought a still life of asparagus from Manet at a price so generous the artist sent him a canvas of a further, single stalk in gratitude. Charles bought the netsuke during the craze for Japonisme. They were kept in a black lacquer vitrine until, one day, Charles sent them to Vienna as a wedding present for his cousin Viktor. Why send these rather than, say, a vase? De Waal speculates that they must have been lost among all the tapestries and the Renoirs; probably, Charles had outgrown them.

But at Viktor's home, they were equally out of place. "It looks like the foyer of the opera," said his bride, Emmy, on being shown her new apartment. The vitrine and its homely curiosities – netsuke were originally designed as toggles – were banished to her dressing room, where, in due course, her children would play with them while she chose her jewellery. And there they stayed, a cuckoo in the nest, as the first world war began, and ended, and then, as Austria, unable to feed its people, allowed antisemitism to take hold. In March 1938, the Ephrussi home was invaded by men in swastika armbands. Some things were stolen, others destroyed, but the netsuke remained mysteriously intact.

After the Anschluss, the family fled. Emmy took her own life in the Ephrussi country house in Czechoslovakia. Viktor and his children escaped elsewhere: his daughter, Elizabeth (de Waal's grandmother), took her father to Tunbridge Wells. After the war, she travelled to Vienna to discover what remained of the family's possessions. Not much was the answer, but a maid, Anna, saved the netsuke from the Nazis, hiding them in her mattress.

In 1947, Elizabeth's brother, Ignace (Iggie), visited Tunbridge Wells between postings for an international grain exporter. Should he go to the Congo or to Japan? They looked at the netsuke together and his decision was made for him. And it was in Japan, in 1991, that de Waal first set eyes on his future inheritance, now repatriated by Iggie. The young potter was studying in Japan and every week he lunched with his great uncle. Afterwards, they examined the netsuke, one by one. The hare with the amber eyes. A tiger. A tumble of tortoises.

De Waal has researched his story with obsessive diligence and he tells it with an imaginative commitment – searching, yet wide-eyed – sadly lacking in some of our more wizened biographers. He is wonderful on place, forever turning doorknobs, real and imaginary, and inviting the reader in. But I could not understand, and became annoyed by, his conviction that he is not in the business of memorialising the diaspora. There is something precious about this, as though such territory is beneath him. "I don't really want to get into the sepia saga business, writing up some elegiac Mitteleuropa narrative of loss," he says.

The question is: do the netsuke enable him to resist such a tale? No. Their survival is wondrous, but I don't think their presence turns The Hare With Amber Eyes from memoir into book of ideas, as de Waal seems to believe. Sometimes, they are more distraction than narrative thread and the need to return to them often bogs the author down; there are, after all, only so many ways to describe the feel of carved wood and only so many times such an image can be made to work as a symbol of patinated memory without the reader feeling that a point is being laboured. I loved the story of the Ephrussis, but I am mystified by de Waal's insistence on gilding it with his own flimsy abstractions. There is no shame in telling people what happened to Jewish families in the last century. Such elegies, sepia or otherwise, grow every day more vital.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2011

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