Art that hangs by a thread


two netsukes at the Vand A

The Victoria and Albert Museum is a veritable wonderland of treasures!  I love the way the rooms are laid out.  The Asia section holds many wonders and these Japanese Netsukes are no exception.  There are great displays of them, but we found them a bit tricky to photograph (especially with our camera…).  The image above is probably the best of a bad bunch, but you can get an idea of how interesting these are I hope.

Japanese Netsuke God of luck Hotei

A netsuke is basically a weight or a toggle.  Japanese kimono’s have no pocket so small items are stored in pouches or boxes attached to a string and hidden behind the obi (belt).   The netsuke is attached at the other end to stop the box or pouch from slipping.

large netsuke from the V and A

They are usually carved from ivory or wood and some of the designs are ingenious!  We saw lots of wonderful ones (displayed here).  I find these small objects fascinating and wonder at the craftsmen who carved them and what tiny tools they must have used.  Many of the netsukes are based upon mythical creatures from folk-lore and legends and this lends them a fairytale and whimsical character.

I would love to own one of these – but I think I would be spoilt for choice at which sort to pick.  Ivory can be very visually appealing – until you remember where it came from….  It’s the same with Scrimshaw ware. These were carved on the bones and teeth of the Sperm whales by whalers.  I took this photo of a whales ‘shoulderbone’ – if there is such a thing.  A whale with shoulders?  this was taken in a pub called ‘The Royal Children’ in Nottingham.  The pub still holds a liscence for selling whale oil for lamps!

a whale's shoulder

I wrote a poem about the netsuke..

Netsuke image of Hotei from here and the Victoria and Albert Museum website is here

Netsuke examples image from here

Lovely netsukes and Japanes imgaes from here

5 Responses to “Art that hangs by a thread”

  1. […] have wrote a post about netsukes over on Echostains here 0.000000 0.000000 Published […]

  2. these are amazing

  3. I love the screaming head K!

  4. I can see why you would want one of these, Lynda. They are such interesting “baubles”. That is what my Grandmother would call them. Very intricate!

  5. Some of these ‘baubles’ probably cost a pretty packet too – I have to admire the workmanship that has gone into them though.

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