Tuesday, 19 January 2016



How are you? Well, I hope.

I have found out that the British Museum have a collection of 2,309 netsuke (pronounced net-ski) , the V&A Museum also has some although I'm not sure how many as I had a few problems negotiating their collection on-line!

According to the International Netsuke Society:

'A netsuke is a small sculptural object which has gradually developed in Japan over a period of more than three hundred years. Netsuke (singular and plural) initially served both functional and aesthetic purposes. The traditional form of Japanese dress, the kimono, had no pockets. Women would tuck small personal items into their sleeves, but men suspended their tobacco pouches, pipes, purses, writing implements, and other items of daily use on a silk cord passed behind their obi(sash). These hanging objects are called sagemono. The netsuke was attached to the other end of the cord preventing the cord from slipping through the obi.'

I've got rather interested in these objects after reading the Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal.  I did enjoy the book which traces the Author's collection of netsuke passing through five generations of his family.  Starting in Paris, the first owner in his family was Charles Ephrussi, the cousin of his great grandfather who was friends with Manet, Renoir and other artists of the time. He appears in Renoir's famous painting The Luncheon of the Boating Party.   He supported the artists with commissions, sometimes paying over the odds for paintings like he did with Manet's small still life of a bunch of asparagus. Manet sent him a painting of a single  piece of asparagus in return.

The netsuke passed to the family in Vienna where they survived, hidden, through the difficult war years and they returned to Tokyo when they passed to the next generation.

I don't want to give away all the details and have just highlighted a few things that appealed to me but it is a fascinating book reflecting the times and bringing the people and places to life, full of colour and poignancy.

I would definitely recommend it.



  1. What an interesting object and glad I know the name of them now - and how to pronounce them. And that's quite a few the British Museum have!

  2. I found your post today quite fascinating. I see these netsuke often on the Antiques Road Show and the history behind them is amazing! Thanks for sharing this. Pat :)

  3. Interesting post today and the book sounds wonderful. The Netsuke are amazing works of art!

  4. I enjoyed reading The Hare With The Amber Eyes a while ago. It's the kind of book with lots of interesting facts about netsuke as well as the family history featured that I would reread it. I bought a copy for my DiL and she would be interested in visiting the V & A as she often goes there to view the exhibits. Thanks for the information about the exhibition.