Netsuke were an essential item of Japanese dress during the Tokugawa Period (1615-1856). The small decorative toggle attached to the cord which held a box (an inro) in which a gentleman kept his personal necessities (money, tobacco, writing implements). Japanese men would have several netsuke (pronounced NET-ski) just as men today have several ties.
Sometimes made from wood, most often, netsuke were carved in ivory. Rarely larger than two inches, the pieces were both functional accessories and extraordinary sculptures. The fine little works of art celebrated the Japanese view of daily life, religion and humor.
The collection at Knox College was the gift of an anonymous donor.
[ Click on an image to see more views of the Netsuke. ]