During the Edo period (1615-1867) a highly original and spirited new art form evolved and flourished in Japan. This was netsuke, small sculptures uniquely designed to be worn, an ingenious and decorative means of suspending objects from the traditional sash, or obi, which wrapped around the kimono. The demand for netsuke largely grew out of the fashion for carrying bulky items, such as tobacco pouches, purses, and the tiered boxes which were difficult to tuck into the folds of the pocket-less kimono or too heavy to insert into its sleeves. They were elaborately sculpted out of ivory, lacquer, wood, and other exotic materials such as rhinoceros horn and walrus tusk. All three objects (the netsuke, the ojime and the different types of sagemono) were often beautifully decorated. All three items also developed into highly coveted and collectible art forms. There are several types of netsuke, with the most common being the katabori or figural netsuke.
There are also sashi or long, thin netsuke, that were thrust through the belt, with the sagemono suspended from the end that protrudes below the obi. Manju netsuke are named after a popular bean paste confection that came in a round, flat shape. Kagamibuta are a special type of netsuke with a metal lid and a bowl, usually in wood or ivory. Finally, there are mask netsuke, which are miniature versions of the masks used in Noh and Kyogen plays. Subject matter was largely derived from Chinese and Japanese legends, religion, and mythology: fantastic animals predominated, but animals of the zodiac were also popular. Heroes were part of the figure repertory along with Buddhist and Taoist saints, whose pious feats appealed to the Japanese taste for the supernatural. Well-known carver Tomotada of Kyoto became famous for his depictions of recumbent oxen.
After researching these incredibly ornate sculptures, I can honestly say I find them impressive, yet unappealing aesthetically speaking. A few caught my eye, such as the octopus on the cover of my report. I found the majority to have dull color or lack of any color at all. Overall, the intricate designs are extraordinary, but the lack of color ultimately resulted in my lack of interest; I personally prefer vivid pieces.
"Art of the Edo Period (1615ÃÂÃÂ1868)." Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. 2009. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Web. 25 Jan 2010. .
"Boy on Reclining Water Buffalo ." Yale University Art Gallery. 2008. Yale University, Web. 23 Jan 2010. .
Faq. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.netsuke.org/faq.htmNetsuke: A Glance at Part of the Glickstein Collection. (2009, December 20). Retrieved from http://www.wlu.edu/x32632.xml