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About Netsuke

Japanese artists have long mastered the art of adorable miniatures, from 18th century netsuke to 21st century Pokemon; sometimes it seems you just have to catch them all. These carved figures were initially practical in nature, allowing wearers to secure bags to the sash of their kimonos, in lieu of pockets. As the merchant class in Japan grew more influential during the Edo Period between 1615 and 1868 C.E., netsuke became a way to show off wealth in a system that had strict prohibitions against showing up the warrior class. Many netsuke were carved of luxury materials. The most popular materials were ivory or wood with about 80 percent of surviving wood netsuke from the Edo period being crafted of cypress, cherry, or camphor. Three-dimensional figures, or katabori, are the most popular form of netsuke, although rounded forms and mirrored forms made of copper, gold, and silver are also found. Netsuke carvers generally worked to themes, like other Japanese art forms, finding inspiration in nature, religion, or history. Some collectors focus on satirical or ribald-themed netsuke. Since they are small and easily hidden in the folds of a kimono, some carvers specialized in rather subversive netsuke with sexual or rebellious themes. Whether you are collecting antique netsuke for value or newly crafted ones for fun, you can find a vast inventory of these whimsical collectibles on eBay.