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treasured japanese miniature sculpture


About the Cover The child kneeling clutches a tied sack. What precious treasures does he conceal? The original 19th century ivory netsuke is partly stained red and green, with applied mother-of-pearl decoration. It is signed Ikkosai Kojitsu with a kakihan (a script mark of the Japanese artist) on the base.


treasured japanese miniature sculpture

Award-winning Design Master Associates, Inc. is world renowned for producing the highest quality museum reproductions.

Peabody Essex Museum to bring a selection of their extensive netsuke collections to the hands of the discerning collector.

Tel: 800.322.7583 | Fax: 757.566.8400 | www.designmasters.com | 3005 John Deere Road | Toano, va 23168


history of netsuke Netsuke (ne – root and tsuke – to fasten) or toggles have captured the imagination of collectors for centuries. Traditional Japanese garments, kimonos, lacked pockets. Women carried items in their sleeves or tucked into a fold within the wide obi (sash or belt). Men tied a small sack to a cord and pulled the cord up under the obi where it would be kept from slipping by a netsuke made of stone, gourd, or root. A practical invention that endured over 300 years, netsuke evolved into a unique form of miniature sculpture that could be held in the palm of the hand. Subjects varied widely, including deities, legendary heroes, and animals.

museum affiliates The Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) in Salem, Massachusetts, one of New England’s largest museums, offers visitors a dynamic experience of art and culture amidst its renowned collections of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, African, Oceanic, Indian, American, and maritime art. The originals of the netsuke are in the Japanese art collection of the Peabody Essex Museum. i | introduction


The British Museum’s (BM) fine netsuke collection owes its existence largely to the gifts and bequests of benefactors of whom Sir Augustus Wollaston Franks, Mrs. H. Seymour Trower, James Hilton, Oscar Raphael, and Mrs. Helen Epstein are the most important. The San Diego Museum of Art (SDMA), San Diego County’s first and largest art institution, provides access to original art works of the highest caliber and is thus the community’s primary resource for enjoying and learning about art. The collection of Asian art numbers over 4,000 objects and is, in fact, the largest area of the Museum’s holdings. These include an extensive collection of unique netsuke. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is the premier encyclopedic visual arts museum in the Western United States. The only museum building solely devoted to Japanese art outside of Japan, The Pavilion for Japanese Art at LACMA, is dedicated to the display and study of Japanese art. It includes one of the foremost public collections of netsuke in the world, the Raymond and Frances Bushell Collection.

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introduction | ii


pedestal display This versatile wooden pedestal can display up to 12 netsuke.

legendary characters

Order one for each of your themed collections.

People in the real world frequently inspired netsuke.

Pedestal Display | di-001-017 | 7.25˝ W x 2.25˝ H x 7.25˝ D

Every social class and nearly every occupation is depicted in typical activities of everyday life. Not only do netsuke portray habits, dress, tools, toys and traditions, but artists reveal keen observations suggesting social commentary. Japanese history, humor and an appreciation of craftsmanship and art are delightfully preserved.

1 | ledgendary characters

Seated Tartar Warrior sc-001-172 2.15˝ W x 1.6˝ H x 1.6˝ D

Kanyu sc-001-173 1.4˝ W x 3˝ H x 1.13˝ D

The seated Tartar warrior intently reads his scroll. The original 18th century netsuke is signed Yoshinaga in an oval cartouche on the base. BM

Kanyu, the Chinese general, stands stroking his beard. He is always depicted holding his beard. The original 18th century netsuke is signed Atokama. BM


Children at Play sc-001-113 1.3˝ W x 1.45˝ H x 1.3˝ D

Chinese Buddha sc-001-084 1.47˝ W x 1.75˝ H x 1.3˝ D

Hotei With Baby sc-001-061 .62˝ W x 1.62˝ H x 1.25˝ D

Mirror Polisher sc-001-045 1.4˝ W x .875˝ H x 1.25˝ D

Okame as a Demure Beauty sc-001-188 1.2˝ W x 2.375˝ H x 1.13˝ D

Couple Having Tea sc-001-053 1.4˝ W x 1.84˝ H x .81˝ D

Believing that everyday life in Japan would be intriguing to Westerners, artists turned to the world around them. Here we see four children at play. PEM

When an individual achieves a profound inner peace, he is able to understand the relationships among all things; he is an awakened one, a Buddha. PEM

Hotei is the most popular of the Seven Gods of Good Fortune. He can be recognized by his jolly expression, huge belly, and sack of “Precious Things.” PEM

Mirrors reflect true images: “As the sword is the soul of the samurai, so is the mirror the soul of a woman. When the mirror is dim, the soul is unclean.” PEM

Ame no Uzume, a plump merry Shinto goddess, was often depicted in kyogen farce as Okame, a woman who reveled in her sensuality. LACMA

Representing a scene and activity of everyday life, a Japanese woman dressed in an elaborate kimono pours tea for a gentleman in foreign attire. PEM

Angel sc-001-075 1.12˝ W x 2.62˝ H x .875˝ D

Sambaso Dancer sc-001-052 .875˝ W x 2.75˝ H x .62˝ D

Child Kneeling sc-001-171 1.8˝ W x 1.4˝ H x 1.5˝ D

Benten sc-001-079 .875˝ W x 2˝ H x .75˝ D

Two Shojo sc-001-167 1.6˝ W x 1.8˝ H x .95˝ D

Otakufu sc-001-078 1.375˝ W x 1.5˝ H x 1.25˝ D

This intricately carved angel with flowing scarves stands firmly on one foot and beats a hand drum. She is a lovely tennin (female) of the Buddhist heaven. PEM

In the 9th century, Sambaso dancers wearing high hats and carrying fans, performed a religious dance to appease the gods and thwart earthquakes. PEM

The child kneeling clutches a tied sack. The original 19th century ivory netsuke is partly stained red and green, with applied mother-of-pearl. BM

Benten is the only female deity among the Seven Gods of Good Fortune. She is the goddess of learning, music, and love–the patron of the geishas. PEM

Two shojo, mythical drunken creatures, climb round a large sake bottle. Shojo live on the bottom of the sea. They brew medicinal wine. BM

To prepare for the New Year, Otafuku, the goddess of mirth, pours tea and has tossed beans to keep the demons away. Tip her back to see a demon. PEM

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ledgendary characters

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japanese curio

zodiac collection

A rosewood-finish curio encircles and displays a special collection of netsuke –perfect for the entire

In the Orient, a rotating cycle of twelve animal signs

zodiac. The overall design permits every delicate detail of the artwork to be viewed from the round.

is a traditional folk method for naming the years. Every twelve years the same animal name or “sign”� reappears. According to legend, Buddha summoned all of the animals; as each arrived – Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Boar – he was honored with a year. In turn, each animal gave its characteristics to the people born in its year, thereby shaping destinies (reference page 9 for birth years).

packaging The best things come in small packages! Beautifully wrapped, each individual netsuke is ready to present as a thoughtful & impressive gift. Much as the obi encircled the waist, a simple but elegant black box is encircled with a colorful sleeve bearing a calligraphic image and short history of the netsuke. Japanese Curio | di-001-016 | 11.5˝ W x 10˝ H x 2.5˝ D

3 | zodiac collection


Dog sc-001-044 1.4˝ W x 1.5˝ H x 1.25˝ D

Boar sc-001-074 1.03˝ W x .55˝ H x .1.73˝ D

Rat Eating a Parsnip sc-001-055 .78˝ W x 1.02˝ H x 1.49˝ D

Reclining Ox sc-001-060 1.18˝ W x 1.09˝ H x 1.95˝ D

Tiger sc-001-073 1.18˝ W x 1.19˝ H x 1.24˝ D

Rabbit sc-001-046 1.03˝ W x 1.16˝ H x 1.28˝ D

People born in the Year of the Dog possess the best traits. They are loyal and trustworthy, inspiring confidence; they know how to keep secrets. PEM

People born in the Year of the Boar are chivalrous and gallant. Whatever they do, they do with all their strength. They make friends for life. PEM

People born in the Year of the Rat are noted for their charm and attraction for the opposite sex. They work hard to achieve goals and are perfectionists. PEM

People born in the Year of the Ox are patient, quiet, and inspire confidence. They are mentally and physically alert, and they hate to fail or be opposed. PEM

People born in the Year of the Tiger are fortunate, for the tiger is the sign for luck, as well as courage and strength. Others have great respect for them. PEM

People born in the Year of the Rabbit are conservative and financially lucky. They make good gamblers for they have the gift of choosing correctly. PEM

Dragon sc-001-069 1.20˝ W x .97˝ H x 1.79˝ D

Snake in a Pumpkin sc-001-072 1.47˝ W x 1.07˝ H x 1.53˝ D

Horse sc-001-071 1.12˝ W x 1.12˝ x H .75˝ D

Goat sc-001-070 .82˝ W x .95˝ H x 1.37˝ D

Monkey with Her Baby sc-001-056 1.02˝ W x 1.12˝ H x 1.44˝ D

Rooster sc-001-062 .97˝ W x 1.36˝ H x 1.75˝ D

People born in the Year of the Dragon are healthy, energetic, and stubborn. They are the most eccentric of the signs and tend to be soft-hearted. PEM

People born in the Year of the Snake are meditative, attractive, and fulfilled. Although calm on the surface, they are very intense and passionate. PEM

People born in the Year of the Horse are popular. They are cheerful, skillful with money, and perceptive, although they sometimes talk too much. PEM

People born in the Year of the Goat are intelligent, accomplished in the arts, and fare well in business. Their abilities make money for them. PEM

People born in the Year of the Monkey are the geniuses of the oriental zodiac. Clever and astute, they are inventive and can solve most problems. PEM

People born in the Year of the Rooster are enthusiastic, brave, and not easily intimidated. They always think they are right and usually are. PEM

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zodiac collection | 4


Dancing Fox sc-001-186 1.6˝ W x 3.06˝ H x 1.1˝ D

Fox in Guise of a Human sc-001-179 1.1˝ W x 2.5˝ H x 1.5˝ D

Raccoon Spirit with Baby sc-001-177 1.7˝ W x 1.9˝ H x 1.5˝ D

Five Dragon Group sc-001-184 1.9˝ W x 1˝ H x 1.5˝ D

A fox, a trickster, could possess a person and assume his or her form. This netsuke catches a coy fox in mid-transformation, as it changes into a woman. LACMA

Here the impish fox, carrying a blowfish, is disguised in a mask, robe, and straw hat. His only giveaway is his bushy tail coming out from under his robes. SDMA

In Japanese folklore the raccoon (tanuki) can change shape and disguises himself to deceive travelers. Here he mischievously carries off a baby. SDMA

These three-toed dragons are Japanese while those from China have four toes. The original netsuke was carved by Ikkosai (SaitoItaro). LACMA

netsuke animals Japanese culture is inseparably tied to the animal world. Animals are more than just interesting creatures. In the 18th century, artists created an animal Elephant at Festival sc-001-076 1.4˝ W x .94˝ H x 1.8˝ D

Wild Boar Rooting sc-001-183 1.92˝ W x 1.47˝ H x 1.43˝ D

Goat and Kid SC-001-170 1.65˝ W x 1.8˝ H x 1˝ D

Cockerel on Millet sc-001-175 1.9˝ W x 1.46˝ H x 1.27˝ D

netsuke because it illustrated a folktale or had religious

The elephant is the symbol of wisdom in Japanese culture. Here an elaborately decorated elephant, a dancer, and two musicians entertain. PEM

This boar, a symbol of prosperity, happily paws through autumn leaves. The original 19th-century netsuke was carved by an anonymous artist. LACMA

The original 19th century goat and kid netsuke is ivory with inlaid eyes. Though unsigned, it is attributed to the Kyoto School. BM

The cockerel is comfortably seated on plump heads of millet. The original 18th century ivory netsuke with inlaid eyes is signed Okatomo. BM

With the 19th and 20th centuries, animals were se-

5 | netsuke animals

or symbolic overtones based in legend and mythology.

lected to be realistically carved. Whatever the reason, we enjoy the extraordinary results.


Seated Monkey sc-001-169 1.2˝ W x 1.32˝ H x 1.4˝ D

Three Monkeys sc-001-168 2˝ W x 1.3˝ H x 1.9˝ D

Seven Rat Group sc-001-182 1.5˝ W x 1.2˝ H x 1.38˝ D

Horse with Monkey sc-001-081 .81˝ W x 1.35˝ H x 1.57˝ D

The monkey holds a bamboo stick and an ivory plectrum as if playing a stringed instrument. The original wooden netsuke is signed Tomochika. BM

Three perceptive monkeys encourage each other to hear, speak, and see no evil. The original 18th century wooden netsuke is signed Miwa. BM

In Asia, when rice was plentiful, rats were too. They were associated with abundance. These engrossed rats step all over each other. LACMA

According to Japanese legend, a horse with a monkey atop of it symbolizes the energy and impatience of the horse led by the intellect of the monkey. PEM

Bag of Grain with Rats sc-001-042 1.65˝ W x 1.55˝ H x 1.67˝ D

Two Rabbits sc-001-048 1.32˝ W x .94˝ H x .94˝ D

Rabbit Pair sc-001-185 1.6˝ W x 1.12˝ H x 1.3˝ D

Puppy with Toad sc-001-178 1.55˝ W x 1˝ H x 1˝ D

Rats are a symbol of fertility, an emblem of good luck, and a companion to the god of prosperity, Daikoku (one of the Seven Gods of Good Fortune). PEM

The rabbit is the symbol of longevity. It is believed that the fur of the hare becomes white when the rabbit has lived for five hundred years. PEM

In East Asian lore, a rabbit’s silhouette can be seen on the face of the moon. The god Indra placed the rabbit there as a model of generosity. LACMA

In Japanese folklore the dog can recognize demons in disguise and protect children. A new baby receives paper mache dogs as emblems of good luck. SDMA

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netsuke animals | 6


Sleeping Cat sc-001-187 1.6˝ W x 1˝ H x 1.25˝ D

Lion with Jewel sc-001-176 1.8˝ W x 1.48˝ H x 1.37˝ D

Roaring Tiger sc-001-180 1.8˝ W x 1.5˝ H x 1.1˝ D

Tigress and Two Cubs sc-001-174 2.13˝ W x 1.46˝ H x 1.8˝ D

Cats were introduced to Japan over 1,000 years ago. This white cat with its collar is based on a print design by Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797–1861). LACMA

The lion (shishi) is depicted either with his mouth open (to scare off evil demons) or with his mouth closed (to keep good spirits in). SDMA

Tigers are not indigenous to Japan. Artists drew them from their imaginations. The original was carved by Matsushita Otoman in the 19th century. LACMA

The original 19th century netsuke of the tigress and her two cubs is stained brown and yellow, with eyes inlaid in mother-of-pearl. BM

feline netsuke Inspired by the rich tradition of Japanese culture and folklore, this new category embodies a spirit of fun and curiosity. In Japan, neko (cats) are regarded as both ausCat with Ball sc-001-086 .67˝ W x 1.46˝ H x 1.06˝ D

Cat in a Robe sc-001-051 1.18˝ W x 2.25˝ H x .875˝ D

Japanese Standing Cat sc-001-085 1˝ W x 3˝ H x 1.25˝ D

Crouching Tiger sc-001-181 1.8˝ W x 1.15˝ H x 1.35˝ D

picious and fearful. The Japanese saw the cat as a being

The Japanese cat is unique with his bobbed tail. This charming cat playfully rests its paw on a ball and wears a special collar indicating he is loved. PEM

This whimsical netsuke is a graceful cat disguised as a woman. In some Japanese legends, long-tailed or two-tailed cats can bewitch human beings. PEM

This standing cat poses as if waiting to be adored. He proudly wears a bib, a common accessory demonstrating the owner’s love for the cat. PEM

This tiger signifies the warrior’s spirit. The original was carved by Sekiran in the 19th century from “sesame seed” bamboo with inlaid ivory eyes. LACMA

From the fierce to the playful, these charming minia-

7 | feline netsuke

of rare beauty, a creature to be honored and respected.

tures add a purrfect complement to your collection.


Bowl of Turtles sc-001-058 2.04˝ W x .86˝ H x 2.04˝ D

Tortoise on a Leaf sc-001-059 1.42˝ W x .56˝ H x 1.9˝ D

Frog Emerging from Leaf sc-001-115 1.14˝ W x .62˝ H x 1.9˝ D

Tortoises, descendants of dragons, are symbols of longevity. It is said that the bushy-tailed tortoise acquires its tail at the age of ten thousand years. PEM

The tortoise symbolizes longevity. Legend claims tortoises descend from dragons and serve as messengers for the queen of the world under the sea. PEM

A frog emerging from a lotus leaf represents the tale of the emperor Go Toka who, irritated by the croaking of frogs, ordered the creatures to be silent. PEM

water netsukes Water as a great natural phenomenon upon which much Japanese life revolved evoked a sense of awe and wonder. As the subjects of many legends and proverbs, creatures of water inhabited a magical world and were believed to possess supernatural powers. They taught humans admirable traits and freely inspired the imagination of netsuke artists.

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water netsukes | 8


ZODIAC CALENDAR

9 | calendar

sc-001-055 · Rat 1900 1912 1924 1936 1948 1960 1972 1984 1996 2008

sc-001-046 · Rabbit 1903 1915 1927 1939 1951 1963 1975 1987 1999 2011

sc-001-071 · Horse 1906 1918 1930 1942 1954 1966 1978 1990 2002 2014

sc-001-062 · Rooster 1901 1921 1933 1945 1957 1969 1981 1993 2005 2017

sc-001-060 · Ox 1901 1913 1925 1937 1949 1961 1973 1985 1997 2009

sc-001-069 · Dragon 1904 1916 1928 1940 1952 1964 1976 1988 2000 2012

sc-001-070 · Goat 1907 1919 1931 1943 1955 1967 1979 1991 2003 2015

sc-001-044 · Dog 1910 1922 1934 1946 1958 1970 1982 1994 2006 2018

sc-001-073 · Tiger 1902 1914 1926 1938 1950 1962 1974 1986 1998 2010

sc-001-072 · Snake 1905 1917 1929 1941 1953 1965 1977 1989 2001 2013

sc-001-056 · Monkey 1908 1920 1932 1944 1956 1968 1980 1992 2004 2016

sc-001-074 · Boar 1911 1923 1935 1947 1959 1971 1983 1995 2007 2019


netsuke museum collection By: Design Master Associates, Inc. Tel: 800.322.7583 | Fax: 757.566.8400 | www.designmasters.com | 3005 John Deere Road | Toano, va 23168

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