Ivory netsuke of a mythical beast

From Japan, 18th century AD

The skill and imagination of the best of the early netsuke carvers in ivory produced many exquisite and quite unique objects. Nonetheless they still served a useful purpose. We can imagine some serious-minded merchant going about his business with this grotesquely humorous creature - with its long snout and tusks, stumpy body, and snake-like neck and tail - dangling at his belt.

Netsuke of this type appear in the Sōken Kishō, the earliest authoritative guide to the subject (and also to inrō, purses and sword furniture), published in woodblock-printed book form in Osaka, 1781.

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More information


L. Smith, V. Harris and T. Clark, Japanese art: masterpieces in (London, The British Museum Press, 1990)

R. Barker and L. Smith, Netsuke: the miniature sculptu (London, The British Museum Press, 1976)


Height: 5.300 cm

Museum number

Asia JA F817


Gift of Sir A.W. Franks


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