This unusual old vintage boxwood netsuke is made in the subject matter of Japanese children. It dates to and was made at the turn of and the early 20th century, Meiji to Taisho period per our trusted antique dealer in Japan and our confirmation. Netsuke are miniature sculptures that were invented in 17th-century Japan to serve a practical function and became highly respected pieces of art, and the old vintage and antique netsuke are still highly collectable, the wood now in more demand due to protection laws.
This is a really unusual 3D type netsuke. The back is completely carved with the fuku kanji mark, that of happiness, fortune, and longevity. This reminds me of a New Years netsuke the two little boys appear to be pounding mochi from rice to prepare to make the rice cakes. They are holding the pounder in the vat for lack of a better word, which is nicely decorated with a pretty border. There is a butterfly carved around the bottom front border. If you look from different angles you will some other carvings, including a cat sitting next to the boy on our right. They both have a frog on top of them like the 'constant companion' of the gamma sennin. There is a two prong claw over the pounder for the mochi, it might be something used to open it- unless that is a bird and not a cat and it is a claw! There is a another place on the end where a bird face can be seen with a beak. All around the sides it has become beautifully abstract from the different carvings on both sides so we see the skill really coming out here of the artist. It has no needs for holes for the cord because it has natural himotoshi in between the carved pieces. It is polished and glazed I think with a clear glaze to protect it, but it already had nice patina when it was done and the wood was lighter in certain areas. There are no injuries cracks or chips, there is some white age wear on the surface in some spots mostly in seams where it would accumulate. This is a really interesting piece of small art in an artist carved netsuke and not one that is a 'tourist' netsuke made for export. for sure.
SIZE: Height 2.1 inches or 5.33 cm, Width 1.4 inches or 3.55 cm, Depth 0.7 or 1.77 cm Weighs about 1 oz.
Netsuke 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 (inrō), 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 inrō 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.
Nowadays the netsuke are put on both key chains and cell phones although of course are used when the occasion calls for kimono wearing still.
There is an organization called Netsuke International where one can get information from on the internet and a lot of good books on netsuke available for more information.
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