Netsuke in my Collection

Hereafter are some of my favorite netsuke presently in my collection. The majority of the netsuke shown on this page are by old masters; however, I am also including two contemporary pieces.

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Japanese Zodiac (junishi) by Meigyokusai, ca. 1960 front view Japanese Zodiac (junishi) by Meigyokusai, ca. 1960 rear view Ivory tigress with cub by Tomotada (before 1781)

The ivory Japanese zodiac netsuke above was the first netsuke I purchased from Tsuruki in Shinmonzen Street in Kyoto in January 1967. It was initially ‘signed’ Masatsugu and I bought it as a late 19th century export model. Later I found out that it was carved by a living carver, Meigyokusai of Kyoto, in the early 1960s. I managed to meet the then already 70 year old netsuke shi in his new home in Shiga Prefecture. Mr. Hiraga (his real name) recognized his work but when asked why he used someone else’s signature, he replied: When Mr. Tsuruki orders 100 copies of this model from a insignificant carver like me, you are happy that he remembered you and you inscribe whatever name he asks you to place on the netsuke, after all you have got to feed your family.

The other is a large rendition of a Tiger and cub by Soken Kisho carver Tomotada. It has a wonderful age patina and lies sweetly in the hand. A German collector once coined a fitting word for such netsuke: Handschmeichler. This could be translated literally as ‘hand-charmer’.

Large Baku in boxwood, signed Hidemasa, 18th century,
ex George Lazarnick, Anne Hull-Grundy Collection
Standing Ivory Baku, unsigned, 18th century Ivory Dog and pup on a round base, attributed to
Masanao of Kyoto, 18th century
Base of the previous netsuke, clearly showing
a ‘cross, a sign of outlawed Christians
Boar Tusk with a number of crabs,
unsigned, 19th century
Ivory Crane looking back by Ohara Mitsuhiro,
early 19th century
Dragon with inlaid eyes & teeth, boxwood,
signed Hidari Issan, 19th century
Dragon, boxwood, unsigned, 18th century Dragon on Boar Tusk, 19th century, signed Kamman
with seal and dated
Baying Kirin, ivory, signed Tomotada,
18th century
Same Kirin from the other side Baying Kirin, ivopry, unsigned, 18th century
Sitting and snarling Tiger, inlaid eyes and fangs (ivory),
boxwood, signed Toyomasa, late 18th century
Snarling Tiger, ivory, signed Otoman
19th century (Bushell Wing at LACMA)
Large Shishi, ivory, unsgned, early 19th century
Large Rat, clutching a daikon, ivory
signed Msanao, 18th century
Same Rat from the other side Curled Rat, boxwood, signed Masakatsu, 18th century
Rat on inkstick, ukibori writing on base
kurogaki, signed Tomiharu, 18th century
Semi on log, umimatsu (sea pine),
signed Kamman, 19th century
Semi on tfolded aro leaf, kurogaki
signed Kamman and kakihan, 19th century
Snail with young, translucent buffalo horn,
signed Kamman to, 19th century
Snail on folded taro leaf, ivory,
signed Tomiharu, 18th century
Centipede on Boar Tusk, 18th century
signed Tomiharu 61 years old, with 2 seals
2 Sumo wrestlers with body tattoo in ‘kawazu’ position,
ivory, signed Masaka, 18th century
2 Sumo wrestlers in ‘kawazu’ position,
boxwood, signed Seihosai Meikei, living artist
Dog holding a ‘kemari’ ball, ivory,
unsigned (in the style of Gechu), 18th century
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8 Responses to Netsuke in my Collection

  1. Willi says:

    Hello Barbara, from your writing abaove, there was no way I could make any proper evaluation so I had asked you for photographs which you kindly provided. Just looking at the Netsuke I felt that the chances of it being a piece made from a mold are very high. I couldn’t see any under cuttings and the “feel” wasn’t very Japanese. After later also seeing the total bare flat bottom of the base my aforegoing suspicion was confirmed. A Netsuke would not necessarily show some carvings on the base (but normally something in allusion to horses would be carved especially on that large flat expanse of the base like the present one) but definitely there should be two himotoshi (small holes for the cord to attach the netsuke to the inro).
    I am happy you were able to buy this piece for pocket money.

  2. Barbara Weisbarth says:

    I recently bought a netsuke with 3 horses in a circle on a base. There is what looks like a fancy 6 or 9 on the inside bottom. It wouldn’t be one used on a belt per se because of that. I like it no matter what it is, ivory, bone, plastic, whatever. I’m just interested in learning what it’s made of, how old or what country of origin. If it’s a total plastic fake that’s ok, just interested.

  3. Willi says:

    Sorry, Grigory, I sold that rather bulky but superbly carved early 18th century ivory Kiriin. I do not even have the photo appearing above any longer and do not think I had the other side photographed for this page. I do remember however, that the back side was pretty identical, except there were of course no himotoshi. It was 82 g in weight, compared to 60 to 65 g for the more usually more slender Tomotada Kirin that I owned or had seen/handled. Happy carving.

  4. Grigoriy says:

    Dear Sir,
    I would kindly ask you for a few more photos of “Baying Kirin, ivory, unsigned, 18th century” piece appearing on this page that I like very much. I am a wood carver and and want to try to make the Kirin for my collection.
    Thank you very much.

  5. Willi says:

    Hi Bobie, I certainly agree with you that the “netsuke” appearing on “antiquespider website” have nothing to do with the real McCoy; they are modern reproductions mostly of poor quality that collectors call “fakes” especially when they are signed

  6. Willi says:

    Thank you for your kind comments – The Otoman snarling tiger now rests in the Raymond and Frances Bushell Wing of the Los Angeles County Museum on Wilshire Boulevard to be admired by art lovers from around the world . It is probably the greatest of the many tigers that the artist from Hakata on the southern island of Kuyshu has ever produced, and he is famous for his tigers.

  7. Bobie says:

    It is a shame to refer to the netsuke on the “antiquespider website” with it’s carvings that I refuse to call netsuke.

    Dear Mr Bosshard,

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful netsuke art collection.

  8. asb says:

    gorgeous pieces, thanks so much for sharing! i am in love with the 19th century snarling tiger. if you’re interested, check out the netsuke collection on antiquespider, it’s pretty impressive!

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