Japanese Netsuke Mermaid


Signed Ebony Mermaid Netsuke.
A netsuke (根付, [netsɯ̥ke]) is a miniature sculpture, originating in 17th century Japan. Initially a simply-carved button fastener on the cords of an inrō box, netsuke later developed into ornately sculpted objects of craftsmanship.
An ivory netsuke with an eagle design and an inrō with a deer design. The combination of netsuke and inrō creates a story of an eagle preying on deer. Edo period, 18th century

Traditionally, Japanese clothing – first the kosode and its later evolution, the kimono – did not have pockets. Though the sleeves of the kimono could be used to store small items, the men who wore kimono needed a larger and stronger container in which to store personal belongings, such as pipes, tobacco, money and seals, resulting in the development of containers known as sagemono, which were hung by cords from the robes' sashes (obi).

These containers may have been pouches or small woven baskets, but the most popular were crafted boxes (inrō) held shut by ojime, sliding beads on cords. Whatever the form of the container, the fastener which secured the cord at the top of the sash was a carved, button-like toggle called a netsuke. Netsuke, like inrō and ojime, evolved over time from being strictly utilitarian into objects of great artistic merit and an expression of extraordinary craftsmanship. Netsuke production was most popular during the Edo period (1603–1867).

Netsuke and inrō declined as Japanese clothes were gradually westernized from the Meiji period (1868–1912). Since they were popular among Western collectors at that time, the higher the quality of their works, the more they were exported, and now, the higher the quality of their works, the more they are in museums or private collectors in foreign countries than in Japan.[1]

Today, the production of netsuke continues, and some modern netsuke can command high prices in the UK, Europe, the USA, Japan and elsewhere. Inexpensive yet faithful reproductions are available in museums and souvenir shops.

The term netsuke is formed from the characters ne (根, meaning 'root') and tsuke (付, meaning 'attached'). In American English, the word is usually italicized, while it is usually unitalicized in British English.[2][3]

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