“Roots of fastening,” or netsuke, production originated in the Edo period (17th century), Japan. As traditional Japanese robes had no pockets, personal belongings were placed in containers (sagemono) and hung from cords (obi) from the robe’s sashes, which were secured at the top of the sash by the miniature sculptures known as netsuke. Carvings were made from many materials including jade, bamboo, walnut, and ivory such as the exquisite woolly mammoth ivory netsuke above. Over time, netsuke evolved from serving solely utilitarian purposes to becoming recognized as artistic masterworks.
Netsuke take five major forms, the most collectible being katabori netsuke, which are highly detailed three dimensional carvings, such as the netsuke of the three wise monkeys, who embody the Japanese proverb “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil,” above. Netsuke subjects range from depictions of daily life, mythology, animals, erotica, and beyond. The craftsmanship and reflection of Japanese culture and history make these items highly valuable. P.M. Tung Arts can be reached here about the netsuke above.