5th April 2022
The Japanese small toggle carvings known as netsuke were originally designed as a simple fastener for the cords of an inro (small storage box) which hung from the obi. With time, however, they came to reflect Japanese society, illustrating all levels of the human psyche from the mundane, almost banal everyday object, to witty and often crude illustrations of people and animals, and reverent or even scandalous images of Japanese immortals, gods, and mythological stories. It is fascinating to think of each carving as a reflection of the carver’s personality and skill – they often need to be examined more than once to even notice the sometimes outrageous reference the carver has made to Okame’s nakedness on the underside of the carving for example. It is this dichotomy that appeals to collectors combined with the skill in handling the wide variety of materials used.
KIllens Mendip Auction Rooms has been lucky to be given a group of netsuke collected over the last few years to sell in the Fine Art and Antiques auction this Saturday 9th April. Each one skillfully carved, they range from the immortal Sennin in his robe of leaves, to a dancer resting his head between his voluminous sleeves, and a variety of animals and figures. Small enough to fit in a drawer and taken out regularly to be admired, they inhabit a corner of the auction market which is worth exploring – if you haven’t already.