VIRTUAL COLLECTION OF ASIAN MASTERPIECES

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Netsuke, Ashinaga and Tenaga
RMV 360-2193
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

The long span of the arm of the man bending over to retrieve the octopus from the other’s leg, seems extremely risky. It really requires nerve, even for a well-experienced craftsman, to carve such a length of open work in an object for daily use. Yet, in view of the natural wear, especially seen on the faces of the two men, it must have been worn for many years. But then, it is not simply daring for the sake of it, the span of the arm also underlines the essence of the image. It is the story of long-arm sitting on the back of long-leg going out fishing. And when the octopus takes hold of long-leg’s leg, long-arm helps his mate who would be unable to reach so low. Prof. Matthi Forrer, curator Japanese arts, Leiden.

History of the Object
Most netsuke are rather compact carvings, and for obvious reasons: protruding parts may easily break off when worn from a sash. It is therefore quite likely that the man who first bought this woodcarving would have asked the netsuke-maker, Gesshō, whether he imagined it could actually be used.

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Type
Costume and Jewelry 
Materials
Palm wood 
Measurements
Width 3 cm. Length 10,9 cm.  
Creator name
Gessho 
Creator date
19th Century; 1800 (ca.) 
Where it was made
Japan 
Geography
Japan 
Time period
AD 19th century ~ AD 19th century 
Creation date
19th Century; 1800 (ca.) 
Function
Netsuke serve the practical purpose of preventing the loss of implements worn by men hanging from the sash, such as tobacco pouches, for example, or tiered medicine-boxes. 
Acquisition
Collected by Jan Cock Blomhoff Ex Collection Royal Cabinet of Rarities, The Hague (1826-1883). Acquired by the museum in 1883. Jan Cock Blomhoff (1779-1853) acted as chief merchant or Captain of the Dutch settlement at Deshima, Nagasaki, Japan, from 1817 to 1823. His collection was bought by King William I in 1826 (see “the history of the institution”). Jan Cock Blomhoff’s collection is unique in the sense that it is the earliest collection in museum history where a collection was explicitly established to elucidate the public on what and why another culture is different and what it entails. 
Copyright
 
Acknowledgements
 
Owner
State property, the Netherlands 
Museum
National Museum of Ethnology, Rijksmuseum Volkenkunde 
Credit line
National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden, the Netherlands 

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