Japanese antique Edo wooden Netsuke 根付, one of the four auspicious 'Black Warrior Turtle', It was made by an expert netsuke craftsman during the latest part of the Edo period from 1800-1868. Netsuke are miniature sculptures that were invented in 17th-century Japan to serve a practical function (the two Japanese characters netsuke mean 'root' and 'to attach'. Traditional Japanese garments—robes like kimono—had no pockets so 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 and included the inro or medicine box. The containers may have been pouches or small woven baskets, but the most popular were beautifully crafted boxes called 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. These days, many use netsuke on cell phones and wallets, or other modern things or the netsuke are displayed as a collection.
This netsuke comes with a nice cord that might also tie to a longer cord and painted ojime beads. This piece is a very delicately carved wooden netsuke, most likely made of boxwood then stained. It has a great shape and is very well done. It has a great face and reminds me of a foo dog with horns. It is common to see some of the 3d parts of the subject matter carved tight to the subject in the olden days. This auspicious holy beast is one of the 'Four Symbols' or the Four Mythological Creatures, this one representing the Black Turtle -or ‘Black Warrior’- of the North. Each of the creatures is most closely associated with a cardinal direction and a color. They also additionally represents other aspects, including a season of the year, a virtue, and one of the Chinese ‘five elements’ -wood, fire, earth, metal, and water-. Each has been given its own individual traits and origin story.
It is in excellent condition with no cracks or chips with perhaps some age-related wear to the surface,
Size: Length 2.2 inches or 5.5 cm, Width 1.4 inches or 3.5 cm, Height 0.9 inch or 2.3 cm. Weight 0.71 oz. or 20 grams.
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.