Tiny treasures - classic and contemporary netsuke
January 6, 2008 9:10 AM   Subscribe

Netsuke of the Meiji Period is an online exhibit from the Los Angeles County Museum, noted for the depth of its collection. (more). The György Ráth Museum and the Ferenc Hopp Museum also house a fine classic collection. (more). Today, netsuke carving is alive and well - see the Kiho Collection for one young master. If you would like to explore more sculpture for the hand, the International Netsuke Society has a good link list to many excellent contemporary netsuke artists.
posted by madamjujujive (14 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Cool stuff! I really like the Asukusa school the best, but it's all neat.
posted by DenOfSizer at 9:39 AM on January 6, 2008

Netsuke previously on MeFi.
posted by languagehat at 9:46 AM on January 6, 2008

Thanks for this - I love these. saw a very charming one last weekend at an auction house - two monkeys wrestling.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:10 PM on January 6, 2008

Hey, thanks! (I work at LACMA, and it's always nice to see any acknowledgment of the museum's collecting areas that are too often overlooked, despite how strong they are. I feel like I should wear a nametag sometimes that says "ask me about LACMA's South and Southeast Asian collections! Not to mention our German Expressionist works on paper!")
posted by scody at 3:51 PM on January 6, 2008

Yes, they really are tiny treasures. They're so emotionally satisfying somehow, inviting. They invite one into an entire world. How do they do that? How do they make poetry out of a man clipping his toenails or visit to the eye doctor?

They remind me of the treasure aspect of peacay's blog and then on your second link there is an ad for his book.

Delightful visual feast dear madamjujujive. I love netsuke. Decades ago in the early 70's I spent my Sundays wandering around the hundreds of antique stalls on Portobello Road in London. In one there were these tiny marvels, so intricate, amazing miniatures. A sign said netsuke, and when I asked "What is a net-soo-kee?", was informed the correct pronunciation is nets-kee and told they were used to close old Japanese pouches and incorrectly assumed tobacco pouches. Thought that was the whole story until, having read your post and gotten curious, I read the Wikipedia info about them a few minutes ago. Cool to now learn some vocab connected with them.

A look at a few of the lovely inro, the pocket substitutes for which netsukes were created as a kind of toggle.

Some of the contemporary netsuke are just astounding: Cornel Schneider's work. wow. That's a carving. Or Leigh Sloggett's netsuke, beautiful.

A perfect Sunday evening enjoyment. Thanks.
posted by nickyskye at 4:09 PM on January 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

I want.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:38 PM on January 6, 2008

I have to thank you for posting this! My Dad collected netsukes, and I hadn't thought about them for a long time. I forgot how beautiful they are!
posted by Mael Oui at 8:01 PM on January 6, 2008

Some have erotic themes and were originally intended to be worn by children,little token for them of the happy lovemaking of the parent. Beautiful post madamjujujive.
posted by hortense at 8:54 PM on January 6, 2008

hortense, any links to that info re originally intended to be worn by children?
posted by nickyskye at 9:58 PM on January 6, 2008

No, it was mentioned in a book I used to own, in the chapter about Japan the netsuke example was a couple in a tub, missionary style, the man looking over his shoulder smiling along with the wife. Erotic Art of Asia is the title, my daughter in law has it now, it had sections on India and China as well. I think it was a rustic practice .
posted by hortense at 10:48 PM on January 6, 2008

Great post, madamjujujive. I really enjoyed seeing the netsukes and inros the last time I was at the LACMA. For anyone who has the chance to go, the Pavilion for Japanese Art is one of the most beautiful and interesting gallery spaces I have ever been to. It not only complements the art, it is also worth seeing in its own right. It's a fantastic space.

Here's some views of the exterior.

I tried to find some pictures of the interior, but none of them seem to fully capture the space, the interplay of shapes, the lighting, the wonderful atmosphere. It's one of those places you really just have to experience in person.

However, on looking for pictures, I found lots of interesting information about the architect who created it, Bruce Goff, who I previously knew nothing about, but now may just have to do an FPP on.

Back on topic.

Here's another Netsuke flickr collection.

Here's the flickr Netsuke and Inro Pool.

A small gallery
, with some very neat contemporary examples, at the Etsuko and Joe Price Collection at the Shin'En Kan Foundation.

Janel Jacobson has an excellent list of links to artists, forums, and museums.

Another contemporary Netsuke artist, Doug Sanders.

The Netsuke Image Gallery, also including Inro, Kizerizutsu, Ojime, Okimono, Sagemono, and Tsuba, from Norman L. Sandfield's Netsuke Home Page, what looks like to be an excellent resource for collectors/scholars/enthusiasts. The gallery is huge, well organized, and full of neat stuff. Definitely worth a look.

The Netsuke Online Research Center
, a non-profit organization dedicated to Netsuke.

Koryuen, Site for More Appreciation of Netsuke, a site in both Japanese and English, full of useful information about Netsuke.
posted by wander at 11:58 PM on January 6, 2008 [2 favorites]

This is my favorite, which was easy to dig up on LACMA's site:
posted by sebastienbailard at 2:49 AM on January 7, 2008

Thanks hortense; it seemed like such a bizarre, inappropriate, thing to give to a child. Never heard of it before but the netsuke you described seems relatively tame.

Love your enthusiastic additional links wander. Cool to find out about the LACMA. The snail on the chestnut jumped out at me, what a masterpiece of expression. That Doug Sanders makes gems.

sebastienbailard, Man with Hangover Sawing Sake Gourd is quite funny.
posted by nickyskye at 8:57 AM on January 7, 2008

Ah, thanks to all for such wonderful additions to the thread - this is the best thing about mefi, you often get back so much more than you give. Much appreciated, I will have fun surfing them all!
posted by madamjujujive at 9:57 PM on January 7, 2008

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