VIRTUAL COLLECTION OF ASIAN MASTERPIECES

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Netsuke
RMV 3915-1
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

Whereas most netsuke are carvings in wood or ivory, this one consists in the top of a Conus shell, sawn off. The shell’s spiralled inside inspired the maker to apply a piece of metal featuring a pattern of comma-shaped tomoe, somewhat reminiscent of the yin-yang symbol. They are here executed in gold and set against a dark shakudō ground, a shiny black metal alloy consisting of copper with two to five percent gold. Moreover, extremely small blossoms, equally of gold, are inlaid in the shakudō base. The result is at first sight very simple with the natural shape defined by the natural shell, with the chique of the precious metal plaque repeating the spiral of the shell’s inside. It may thus also serve to illustrate the difficult concepts of wabi and sabi, often applied to tea ceremony utensils: a notion of a not directly obvious naturalness, an aspect of natural feeling, or tangibility, and artlessness, in other words, being uncontrived. Prof. Matthi Forrer, curator Japanese arts, Leiden.

History of the Object
unknown

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Type
Costume and Jewelry 
Materials
Conus shell; metal alloys: shakudo with hammered gold and silver 
Measurements
Width 1 cm. Height 3,4 cm.  
Creator name
unknown 
Creator date
Unknown 
Where it was made
Japan 
Geography
Japan 
Time period
AD 19th century ~ AD 19th century 
Creation date
Early 19th century 
Function
Netsuke serve the practical purpose of preventing the loss of implements such as tobacco pouches, or tiered medicine-boxes, for example, worn by men and hung from their sash. 
Acquisition
Acquired by the museum in 1963. 
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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