Mammoet ivoor Netsuke - Kind. Netsuke: +/- 4cm x 3cm x 1.5cm.
From the 16th century onward, the kimono was the traditional Japanese clothing. As kimonos do not have pockets, ladies used their sleeves instead. Gentlemen had to bring tobacco pouches, pipecases, a money purse and writing utensils when going out, too heavy to put up the sleeve of a kimono. It therefore became fashionable to carry small pouches and purses suspended from a silk cord (a ‘himo’). This cord was attached to a netsuke to keep it from gliding. At first, netsukes were simple beads made out of roots or branches or even stone, ‘Ne’ meaning root, and ‘Suke’ hanging.
Eventually they developed into marvelous miniature carvings made of wood, but also coral, turtle shell, amber, buffalo bone, staghorn, rhino and ivory, to name a few. The carvings varied from mythological scenes, animals of the chinese zodiac, its owners profession, but also eroticism was popular. By the end of the 18th century, Japanese gentlemen started wearing suits with pockets and netsukes became obsolete. They are now highly appreciated collector items.