Netsuke( 根付 ) [netsɯke] are miniature sculptures that were invented in 17th-century Japan to serve a practical function.
Japan is an island country in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies off the eastern coast of the Asian continent and stretches from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and the Philippine Sea in the south.
Traditional Japanese garments—robes called kosode and kimono —had no pockets; however, men who wore them needed a place to store their personal belongings, such as pipes, tobacco, money, seals, or medicines. Their solution was to place such objects in containers (called sagemono ) hung by cords from the robes' sashes ( obi ). The containers may have been pouches or small woven baskets, but the most popular were beautifully crafted boxes ( inrō ), which were held shut by ojime , which were sliding beads on cords. Whatever the form of the container, the fastener that secured the cord at the top of the sash was a carved, button-like toggle called a netsuke.
The kosode (小袖) is a basic Japanese robe for both men and women. It is worn as both an undergarment and overgarment. The literal meaning of the term kosode is "small sleeve," which refers to the sleeve opening. They were traditionally worn during the Japanese Edo Period (1600–1868).
The kimono(着物, きもの) is a traditional Japanese garment. The word kimono literally means "thing to wear on the shoulders"; ki comes from the verb kiru (着る), a gender-neutral verb describes clothing worn on the shoulders or on the entire body, and mono (物) means "thing".
Obi(帯, おび) is a sash for traditional Japanese dress, keikogi, and part of kimono outfits.
Netsuke, like the inrō and ojime, evolved over time from being strictly utilitarian into objects of great artistic merit and an expression of extraordinary craftsmanship. Such objects have a long history reflecting the important aspects of Japanese folklore and life. Netsuke production was most popular during the Edo period in Japan, around 1615–1868. Today, the art lives on, and some modern works 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 Edo period or Tokugawa period (徳川時代) is the period between 1603 and 1868 in the history of Japan, when Japanese society was under the rule of the Tokugawa shogunate and the country's 300 regional daimyō. The period was characterized by economic growth, strict social order, isolationist foreign policies, a stable population, "no more wars", and popular enjoyment of arts and culture. The shogunate was officially established in Edo on March 24, 1603, by Tokugawa Ieyasu. The period came to an end with the Meiji Restoration on May 3, 1868, after the fall of Edo.
Okimono , small and purely decorative sculptures, were often made by the same artists who produced netsuke.
Okimono is a Japanese term meaning "ornament for display; objet d'art; decorative object", typically displayed in a tokonoma alcove or butsudan altar.
The term is formed from the two Japanese characters ne+tsuke, meaning "root" and "to attach". In English the word may be italicized or not, with American English tending to favour the former and British English the latter.
American English, sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of varieties of the English language native to the United States. It is considered one of the most influential dialects of English globally, including on other varieties of English.
British English is the standard dialect of English language as spoken and written in the United Kingdom. Variations exist in formal, written English in the United Kingdom. For example, the adjective wee is almost exclusively used in parts of Scotland and Ireland, and occasionally Yorkshire, whereas little is predominant elsewhere. Nevertheless, there is a meaningful degree of uniformity in written English within the United Kingdom, and this could be described by the term British English. The forms of spoken English, however, vary considerably more than in most other areas of the world where English is spoken, so a uniform concept of British English is more difficult to apply to the spoken language. According to Tom McArthur in the Oxford Guide to World English, British English shares "all the ambiguities and tensions in the word 'British' and as a result can be used and interpreted in two ways, more broadly or more narrowly, within a range of blurring and ambiguity".
Noh, derived from the Sino-Japanese word for "skill" or "talent", is a major form of classical Japanese musical drama that has been performed since the 14th century. Developed by Kan'ami and his son Zeami, it is the oldest major theatre art that is still regularly performed today. Traditionally, a Noh program includes five Noh plays with comedic kyōgen plays in between; an abbreviated program of two Noh plays and one kyōgen piece has become common in Noh presentations today. An okina (翁) play may be presented in the very beginning especially at New Year, holidays, and other special occasions.
Relief is a sculptural technique where the sculpted elements remain attached to a solid background of the same material. The term relief is from the Latin verb relevo, to raise. To create a sculpture in relief is to give the impression that the sculpted material has been raised above the background plane. What is actually performed when a relief is cut in from a flat surface of stone or wood is a lowering of the field, leaving the unsculpted parts seemingly raised. The technique involves considerable chiselling away of the background, which is a time-consuming exercise. On the other hand, a relief saves forming the rear of a subject, and is less fragile and more securely fixed than a sculpture in the round, especially one of a standing figure where the ankles are a potential weak point, especially in stone. In other materials such as metal, clay, plaster stucco, ceramics or papier-mâché the form can be just added to or raised from the background, and monumental bronze reliefs are made by casting.
Like many other art forms, netsuke reflect the nature of the society that produced them. This effect is particularly pronounced in netsuke, owing to long periods of isolation imposed both by geography and internal politics and limited avenues of self-expression for Japanese citizens due to custom and law.As a result, netsuke display every aspect of Japanese culture, including its rich folklore and religion, crafts, trades, and professions, all types of people and creatures, both real and imagined, and every kind of object. As in other aspects of Japanese culture, the subjects portrayed by netsuke trend, over the long term, away from an initial emphasis on motifs of Chinese derivation toward a focus on objects of more strictly national interest.
Some netsuke represent single, simple, objects, and some depict entire scenes from history, mythology, or literature.
Ivory is a hard, white material from the tusks and teeth of animals, that consists mainly of dentine, one of the physical structures of teeth and tusks. The chemical structure of the teeth and tusks of mammals is the same, regardless of the species of origin. The trade in certain teeth and tusks other than elephant is well established and widespread; therefore, "ivory" can correctly be used to describe any mammalian teeth or tusks of commercial interest which are large enough to be carved or scrimshawed. It has been valued since ancient times in art or manufacturing for making a range of items from ivory carvings to false teeth, piano keys, fans, dominoes and joint tubes. Elephant ivory is the most important source, but ivory from mammoth, walrus, hippopotamus, sperm whale, killer whale, narwhal and wart hog are used as well. Elk also have two ivory teeth, which are believed to be the remnants of tusks from their ancestors.
Walrus tusk ivory comes from two modified upper canines. It is also known as morse. The tusks of a Pacific walrus may attain a length of one meter. Walrus teeth are also commercially carved and traded. The average walrus tooth has a rounded, irregular peg shape and is approximately 5 cm in length.
Wood carving is a form of woodworking by means of a cutting tool (knife) in one hand or a chisel by two hands or with one hand on a chisel and one hand on a mallet, resulting in a wooden figure or figurine, or in the sculptural ornamentation of a wooden object. The phrase may also refer to the finished product, from individual sculptures to hand-worked mouldings composing part of a tracery.
Stone carving is an activity where pieces of rough natural stone are shaped by the controlled removal of stone. Owing to the permanence of the material, stone work has survived which was created during our prehistory.
The Löwenmensch figurine or Lion-man of the Hohlenstein-Stadel is a prehistoric ivory sculpture discovered in the Hohlenstein-Stadel, a German cave in 1939. The German name, Löwenmensch, meaning "lion-human", is used most frequently because it was discovered and is exhibited in Germany.
Scrimshaw is scrollwork, engravings, and carvings done in bone or ivory. Typically it refers to the artwork created by whalers, engraved on the byproducts of whales, such as bones or cartilage. It is most commonly made out of the bones and teeth of sperm whales, the baleen of other whales, and the tusks of walruses. It takes the form of elaborate engravings in the form of pictures and lettering on the surface of the bone or tooth, with the engraving highlighted using a pigment, or, less often, small sculptures made from the same material. However the latter really fall into the categories of ivory carving, for all carved teeth and tusks, or bone carving. The making of scrimshaw began on whaling ships between 1745 and 1759 on the Pacific Ocean, and survived until the ban on commercial whaling. The practice survives as a hobby and as a trade for commercial artisans. A maker of scrimshaw is known as a scrimshander. The word first appeared in print in the early 19th century, but the etymology is uncertain.
Okir or okil is the term for geometric and flowing plant-based designs and folk motifs that can be usually found among the Moro and Lumad peoples of the Southern Philippines, as well as parts of Sabah. It is particularly associated with the artwork of the Maranao and Sama (Badjao) people, although it can also be found to a lesser extent among neighboring Maguindanao, Iranun, Tausug, Yakan, and Lumad groups. The design elements vary among these ethnic groups, with the greatest refinement being found among the Maranao.
Ryūjin or Ryōjin, which in some traditions is equivalent to Ōwatatsumi, was the tutelary deity of the sea in Japanese mythology. This Japanese dragon symbolized the power of the ocean, had a large mouth, and was able to transform into a human shape. Ryūjin lived in Ryūgū-jō, his palace under the sea built out of red and white coral, from where he controlled the tides with magical tide jewels. Sea turtles, fish and jellyfish are often depicted as Ryūjin's servants.
Hornbill ivory is a precious ornamental material derived from the helmeted hornbill, a large bird of the Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, and Borneo.
An inrō (印籠) is a traditional Japanese case for holding small objects, suspended from the obi (sash) worn around the waist. They are often highly decorated, in a variety of materials and techniques, in particular often using lacquer.
Ivory carving is the carving of ivory, that is to say animal tooth or tusk, by using sharp cutting tools, either mechanically or manually.
Heterodontosaurus is a genus of heterodontosaurid dinosaur that lived during the Early Jurassic, 200–190 million years ago. Its only known member species, Heterodontosaurus tucki, was named in 1962 based on a skull discovered in South Africa. The genus name means "different toothed lizard", in reference to its unusual, heterodont dentition; the specific name honors G. C. Tuck, who supported the discoverers. Further specimens have since been found, including an almost complete skeleton in 1966.
Phytelephas is a genus containing six known species of palms, occurring from southern Panama along the Andes to Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia, northwestern Brazil, and Peru. They are commonly known as ivory palms, ivory-nut palms or tagua palms; the scientific name Phytelephas means "plant elephant". This and the first two of the common names refer to the very hard white endosperm of their seeds, which resembles elephant ivory.
Inlay covers a range of techniques in sculpture and the decorative arts for inserting pieces of contrasting, often coloured materials into depressions in a base object to form ornament or pictures that normally are flush with the matrix. A great range of materials have been used both for the base or matrix and for the inlays inserted into it. Inlay is commonly used in the production of decorative furniture, where pieces of coloured wood, precious metals or even diamonds are inserted into the surface of the carcass using various matrices including clearcoats and varnishes. Lutherie inlays are frequently used as decoration and marking on musical instruments, particularly the smaller strings.
Inuit art refers to artwork produced by Inuit people, that is, the people of the Arctic previously known as Eskimos, a term that is now often considered offensive outside Alaska. Historically, their preferred medium was walrus ivory, but since the establishment of southern markets for Inuit art in 1945, prints and figurative works carved in relatively soft stone such as soapstone, serpentinite, or argillite have also become popular.
Nick Lamb is a sculptor specialising in the Japanese art form of netsuke. One of a handful of non-Japanese carvers of netsuke, Lamb has built a reputation since the 1980s as one of the best living practitioners of this art. He is known for meticulous, graceful carvings, typically of animals. His preferred medium for carving is boxwood. Lamb was born in 1948 in Cambridge, England, and educated at Berkshire College, Maidenhead, Berkshire, England. He originally trained as a graphic designer, and was introduced to netsuke by someone who had seen a miniature carving he had done as a pastime. He began to carve full-time in 1988 and moved to the United States in 1995 to be closer to fellow carvers and netsuke collectors.
Kongo ivories are some of the finest sculptural works produced by the people of the west-central Africa's Lower Congo region. In the Kongo Kingdom, ivory was a precious commodity that was strictly controlled by chiefs and kings, who commissioned sculptors to produce fine ivory sculptures for their personal and courtly use. With the rise of the transatlantic trade, ivory became one of the most valuable African natural resources sought by Western industry. Eventually, Kongo ivory carvers produced works not only for indigenous leaders and elites but also for Europeans and other foreigners.
Owen Thomas Mapp is a New Zealand carver who works primarily in bone.
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