Netsuke are small objects which originally had a practical function as part of a Samurai's clothing, as they were used to fasten tobacco boxes and other similar pouches to the kimono belt. However, these objects had already lost their original purpose in the 19th century, becoming instead a true art form which is often referred to as a type of miniature sculpture. From their earliest appearances at international fairs in the late 19th century, antique netsuke stood out for the extraordinary level of artistry and craftsmanship. Using either simple materials such as wood, or harder and nobler ones such as ivory, Japanese masters were able to carve out small wonders of tremendous emotional impact.
Antique netsuke for sale in specialized galleries are all of exceptional quality, and many of them are already cataloged in prestigious collections and expositions. In crafting these fascinating works, Japanese artisans usually enjoyed total creative freedom. Therefore, when browsing antique netsuke for sale, one will come across an astounding variety of styles and subject matters, from strictly naturalistic scenes, which impress for the level of detail in their scale reproduction of animals, to complex scenes that enclose a whole narrative in a single, tiny sculpture.
The magic of these objects is such that they are often considered good-luck charms, and it's easy to imagine how, in antiquity, these works of miniature art latched onto the kimono belt may have been used to express one's mood, particularly in a culture like the Japanese one, with its silent language replete with subtle, codified gestures. The practice of giving netsuke as gifts also maintains a special significance, as the item comes to represents, much like in its original function, a symbolic attachment to something – or someone – from whom we don't want to part.