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Japanese Netsuke

Originally used as practical objects, Japanese netsuke has become an outlet for sculptors to express their creativity and a popular form of Japanese art worldwide. First discovered in 17th century Japan, netsuke serve as a solution to the lack of pockets in the Japanese kimono. These small fixtures help to hold multi-compartmented boxes known as "inro," which are used to carry possessions. Netsukes are worn above the obi of the kimono, fastened to a rope or cord which is passed under the obi, and strung onto the inro.

Japanese netsuke can be made from a wide variety of materials including ivory, hardwood, clay or porcelain, metal, and in rare cases, even walnuts or coral. The most common medium for creating is ivory netsuke. However, as obtaining ivory from a live animal is now illegal, production from this medium is extremely restricted. Mammoth ivory still remains in vast quantities throughout Asia, and is still used to carve ivory netsuke today.

Quick Facts 

  • Netsuke and inro became nearly obsolete during the early 20th century due to Western influence on Japanese clothing and the introduction of pockets
  • Antique netsuke is characterized by some wear within the holes of the netsuke figure as well as on the surface where the netsuke would have experienced friction against the clothing
  • A popular collecting category of netsuke is shunga. Shunga, meaning "spring," are sculptural objects have been historically popular among wealthy collectors and given as gifts to newlyweds
  • Check below to find Netsuke for sale. For more information about the origins of Japanese netsuke, view our Netsuke buyer's guide on the Invaluable blog.

Recommended Items at Auction

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Sgd Japanese Carved Bone Scholar Netsuke
Mar 20, 10:00 AM EDT
Sgd Japanese Carved Bone Scholar Netsuke
by The Benefit Shop Foundation Inc.
Est: $100- $200
$65 Bids
Signed Carved Bone & Pearl Buddha Netsuke
Mar 20, 10:00 AM EDT
Signed Carved Bone & Pearl Buddha Netsuke
by The Benefit Shop Foundation Inc.
Est: $50- $150
$255 Bids
MEIJI PERIOD JAPANESE CARVED IVORY NETSUKE LOT
Mar 15, 9:00 AM EDT
MEIJI PERIOD JAPANESE CARVED IVORY NETSUKE LOT
by Affiliated Auctions & Realty LLC
Est: $200- $300
$603 Bids
SIGNED CARVED NETSUKE ANTIQUE MAN SKELETON FOSSIL
Apr 14, 10:00 AM EDT
SIGNED CARVED NETSUKE ANTIQUE MAN SKELETON FOSSIL
by Imperial Auction
Est: $300- $500
$802 Bids
SIGNED CARVED NETSUKE OF TWO SQUIRRELS
Apr 14, 10:00 AM EDT
SIGNED CARVED NETSUKE OF TWO SQUIRRELS
by Imperial Auction
Est: $200- $300
$602 Bids
UNKNOWN ARTIST - Netsuke - Man Holding a Mallet
Mar 24, 1:00 PM CST
UNKNOWN ARTIST - Netsuke - Man Holding a Mallet
by Saskatchewan Network for Art Collecting
Est: $100- $150
$401 Bid
UNKNOWN ARTIST - Netsuke - Man with Dark Beard
Mar 24, 1:00 PM CST
UNKNOWN ARTIST - Netsuke - Man with Dark Beard
by Saskatchewan Network for Art Collecting
Est: $100- $150
$401 Bid
UNKNOWN ARTIST - Netsuke - Man Holding his Beard
Mar 24, 1:00 PM CST
UNKNOWN ARTIST - Netsuke - Man Holding his Beard
by Saskatchewan Network for Art Collecting
Est: $100- $150
$401 Bid
UNKNOWN ARTIST - Netsuke - Man Holding a Jug
Mar 24, 1:00 PM CST
UNKNOWN ARTIST - Netsuke - Man Holding a Jug
by Saskatchewan Network for Art Collecting
Est: $100- $150
$401 Bid
UNKNOWN ARTIST - Netsuke - Scholar with a Scroll
Mar 24, 1:00 PM CST
UNKNOWN ARTIST - Netsuke - Scholar with a Scroll
by Saskatchewan Network for Art Collecting
Est: $100- $150
$401 Bid
UNKNOWN ARTIST - Netsuke - Man Reclining
Mar 24, 1:00 PM CST
UNKNOWN ARTIST - Netsuke - Man Reclining
by Saskatchewan Network for Art Collecting
Est: $100- $150
$401 Bid
ANTIQUE JAPANESE LATE EDO CARVED JADE DOG NETSUKE
Mar 16, 10:00 AM EDT
ANTIQUE JAPANESE LATE EDO CARVED JADE DOG NETSUKE
by Antique Arena Inc
Est: $100- $150
$501 Bid
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NETSUKE VON YASUMASA (HOMEI)
Mar 19, 9:00 AM CET
NETSUKE VON YASUMASA (HOMEI)
by Schuler Auktionen
Est: CHF2,000- CHF2,400
CHF2,0001 Bid
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Japanese Carved Bone Rats on Basket Netsuke
Mar 14, 2:00 PM EDT
Japanese Carved Bone Rats on Basket Netsuke
by Lion and Unicorn
Est: $100- $300
$101 Bid
SIGNED CARVED NETSUKE TURTLE & BASKET FOSSIL
Apr 14, 10:00 AM EDT
SIGNED CARVED NETSUKE TURTLE & BASKET FOSSIL
by Imperial Auction
Est: $200- $300
$501 Bid
Carved netsuke rabbit
Mar 26, 6:00 PM EDT
Carved netsuke rabbit
by Captain Ahab's Antiques
Est: $40- $80
$301 Bid
A CARVED HARDWOOD CLAM NETSUKE. Signed. 2ins.
Mar 06, 10:30 AM GMT
A CARVED HARDWOOD CLAM NETSUKE. Signed. 2ins.
by John Nicholson's Fine Art Auctioneers & Valuers
Est: £30- £40
£251 Bid
Japan 18th/19th Century, ivory Ryusa-Manju Netsuke, Edo period,
Mar 15, 12:00 PM CET
Japan 18th/19th Century, ivory Ryusa-Manju Netsuke, Edo period,
by Antikauktion Krefeld
Est: €200- €0
€2001 Bid
ARTIST SIGNED CARVED RABBIT NETSUKE
Apr 14, 10:00 AM EDT
ARTIST SIGNED CARVED RABBIT NETSUKE
by Imperial Auction
Est: $200- $300
$501 Bid
19th C. Japanese Polychrome Carved Turtle Figurine
Mar 07, 6:00 PM EST
19th C. Japanese Polychrome Carved Turtle Figurine
by Orion Antiques
Est: $100- $300
$501 Bid
CARVED NETSUKE FOSSIL CARVER WITH MALLET
Apr 14, 10:00 AM EDT
CARVED NETSUKE FOSSIL CARVER WITH MALLET
by Imperial Auction
Est: $200- $300
$501 Bid
19TH C. JAPANESE HARDWOOD NETSUKE
Mar 06, 10:00 AM EST
19TH C. JAPANESE HARDWOOD NETSUKE
by Thomaston Place Auction Galleries
Est: $100- $150
$501 Bid
CARVED NETSUKE ELDER FIGURINE
Apr 14, 10:00 AM EDT
CARVED NETSUKE ELDER FIGURINE
by Imperial Auction
Est: $200- $300
$501 Bid
19TH-CENTURY JAPANESE NETSUKE
Mar 06, 10:00 AM GMT
19TH-CENTURY JAPANESE NETSUKE
by Sheppards
Est: €200- €300
€1201 Bid

Sellers Who Sell Japanese Netsuke


Schuler Auktionen

Schuler Auktionen

Antikauktion Krefeld

Antikauktion Krefeld

Imperial Auction

Imperial Auction

Saskatchewan Network for Art Collecting

Saskatchewan Network for Art Collecting