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Netsuke - Beaded Throughout History

Feb 10, 2008
Netsuke is basically miniature sculptures which have now become a collectable item. Netsuke was a carved piece on the cord of the (sagemono) or a hanging compartment, that was kept tight by the cord bead or 'ojime', placed between the 'inro' and the netsuke. The inro hanged from the kimono sash (obi) and the netsuke was placed below the sash, holding the Sagemono in its place.

Collectors prefer the different styles of netsuke specially the decorative mask netsuke which were miniature replicas of the masks worn in the popular plays of Noh and Kyogen.

Japanese are known for their delicate carving. Netsuke is basically miniature sculptures which have now become a collectable item. Netsuke was a carved piece on the cord of the (sagemono) or a hanging compartment, that was kept tight by the cord bead or 'ojime', placed between the 'inro' and the netsuke. The inro hanged from the kimono sash (obi) and the netsuke was placed below the sash, holding the Sagemono in its place.

They used to have a practical purpose of being a toggle which helped secure things that were hanged from the kimono. In the beginning, the netsuke was made of wood, but later on more expensive materials came into being and you can find old netsuke crafted out of amber, bone, antlers, ivory both elephant and marine with exotic precious stone inlays and carvings. Netsuke was in vogue from the 17th to the early part of the 19th century but after the Meiji Restoration, it gradually disappeared after Western clothes came into focus.

There are four types of netsuke basically: Katabori (common and compact), Manju (flat resembling a button), Sashi (long and thin) and Kagamibuta (lid and bowl). Collectors prefer the different styles of netsuke specially the decorative mask netsuke which were miniature replicas of the masks worn in the popular plays of Noh and Kyogen. Another popular choice is the carved human figure (katabori) and Kagamibuta, comprising of a set of netsuke which have a metal lid and bowl, handcrafted from ivory. A special name 'Netsukeshi' was given to the carvers of netsuke, whose background was a sculptor and an artist.

Although the popularity of collecting netsuke has gained popularity over the past few years, fakes are often sold to those who do not have a keen eye to spot the difference. In case, you plan to buy an original netsuke, it is best to consult someone who has been in the field of art collection or is an authority on the subject. There are many sites that sell classic reproductions of these also which may not be valued on their antiquity but are prized due to their craftsmanship.

Many artists still carry the knowledge of crafting netsuke that had been passed generation to generation, but sell them as modern version as a curio. You can search online and get many good deals on intricate sculpted netsuke that might hold your attention due to the sheer beauty of the carving.
About the Author
Anita Satin Choudhary writes for Ivory and Art Gallery. Browse the gallery for unique collection of artifacts ranging from ivory netsuke to japanese netsuke.
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