where small intricately carved objects from Japan are featured,
they are called netsuke, like this fish, sculpted by master netsuke artist Masanao I of Ise, this boxwood netsuke is modelled after the bulbous lion-head goldfish or ranchū,
this netsuke appears to portray a sleepy fat robed rat, apparently during the Edo period, the government was quite strict about what townsmen could and could not wear according to their rank and social status, in her book Tsuchiya explains that although samurai dress code was very strict, men could complement their simple uniforms “with decorative additions, providing that they were worn discreetly or were hidden in the folds of their robes.” these netsuke were fundamentally fashion accessories and aesthetic symbols of social status,
the two holes located at the bottom of this pigeon netsuke allowed a thin silken cord to be looped through and tied around a kimono sash, below the holes and to the right, there is a delicate signature, wrought by netsuke carver Ohara Mitsuhiro, to wear a netsuke, a silken cord was attached to it and then looped around the obi, which was a sash tied around the wearer’s waist, peeking out the top of the obi, the netsuke acted as a fastener to hold a lacquered wooden container, which the Japanese called an inrō, in place as it dangled below, some netsuke were hollow, allowing their owners to secret away forbidden items while more ordinary objects were stored inside the inrō, Tsuchiya draws contemporary comparisons between netsuke and cellphone charms, as well as cufflinks, men would choose a different obi every morning, much the same as an English gentleman will select a tie for the day,
this highly detailed netsuke features a range of fish one might have found in an Edo-period fish market: bream, octopus, carp, flatfish and shrimp, Tsuchiya explains that is special about this piece is the fact that each eye is inlaid with a tiny ball of metal,
all of this in a book by Japanese art curator Noriko Tsuchiya, who details historically significant netsuke in her book called Netsuke: 100 Miniature Masterpieces from Japan, and no I am not on commission, I just wanted to find out more about the small carved objects that we see on some of the antiques shows we watch.