The William Oates Jeffery Collection


(pronounced "net-ski" or “net-skeh”)


          “A small toggle, typically in the form of a carved ivory or wood figure,

 used to secure a purse or container suspended on a cord from the sash of a kimono.”


          Netsuke  are a form of elaborately carved miniature sculpture that is both functional and aesthetic.  Netsuke developed in Japan over several hundred years beginning in the early to mid 17th century, reaching a peak of development and use in the mid to late 19th century.


 Because the kimono had no pockets, men would suspend small personal items like tobacco pouches, pipe cases, or writing implements on a cord suspended from their waistband or "obi".  As a group, these hanging objects are referred to as "sagemono". To stop the cord from slipping through the obi, a small toggle called a"netsuke" was attached.  A sliding bead called an "ojime" was strung on the cord between the netsuke and the sagemono to tighten or loosen the opening of the sagemono. The entire ensemble functioned as an external pocket.  All three items are now highly collectible art forms, but it is the netsuke that is the most sought after by collectors. 


          Netsuke and sagemono are made from many materials including  wood, bone, horn, ivory, shell, coral, and precious metals,  and are often enhanced with lacquer work, inlay, or semi-precious stones.  The introduction of European clothing styles in the late 18th and early 19th century resulted in the decline of the use of the kimono and sagemono, and although netsuke continue to be made to this day, the function of netsuke produced during the 20th century is largely decorative. 

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