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Ivory netsuke, Japan, 1701-1900

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Credit: Ivory netsuke, Japan, 1701-1900. Science Museum, London. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

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This ivory netsuke was made in Japan. It is in the form of a rabbit-like creature grinding with a mortar and pestle. This imagery almost certainly refers to the ‘Hare in the Moon’, a messenger of the moon deity. The creature mixes the elixir of immortality with his mortar and pestle. Netsuke are toggle-like ornaments. They hang objects such as medicine boxes or tobacco pouches from the sash of a kimono – a traditional form of Japanese dress. Netsuke carving is a form of miniature sculpture which developed in Japan over several hundred years. They were often beautifully decorated with elaborate carving, lacquer work, or inlays and were usually made from wood, ivory or porcelain. maker: Unknown maker Place made: Japan

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