Friday, August 14, 2009


This little fellow was one of my treasures for many years before I ever heard of netsukes.

I'd wondered about the holes in his back and just chalked it up to the mystery of the Orient.

But then I learned the truth -- he's a netsuke, of Japanese origin. These little carvings -- ivory, bone, wood -- were used as decorative toggles tied to one end of a silken cord (that's why the little holes) at the other end of which might be a tobacco pouch, a fan, a coin purse, or some such. Since kimonos don't have pockets, small personal items would be carried this way, with the cord threaded through the sash.

I showed my netsuke to my husband's Uncle Charley -- a collector of many things -- and he became enchanted with these tiny works of art. In almost no time he had acquired quite an assortment of these little delights and he passed a few on to me.
This wonderful dancer's face rotates to present two different personalities.

There are many netsukes of varying quality for sale -- some true works of art, some made in Hong Kong for the tourist trade, some exquisite copies meant to pass as the real thing.

I wouldn't dare to make guesses about any of these. But I like this rooster.

And this mermaid with her mer-baby.

There's a signature -- though that's no guarantee of anything.

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When Uncle Charley passed away, his son gave me this fine dog from the collection.

The rest of these I know to be reproductions -- the only affordable netsukes these days.

But they're still little beauties.

(The photos were taken when I was playing with the Nikon.)


Margie said...

Vicki, I so enjoyed this post, those little sculptures are the most enchanting little items I have ever seen, what a lovely collection you have. Thank you for posting. Hugs, Margie.

Vicki Lane said...

Thanks, Margie -- They really are little treasures. There is one, in some museum somewhere, made of a baroque pearl shaped like Mt. Fuji with clouds of gold at its base.

Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

The one with the rotating faces is fascinating. Looks like she might have an evil side. They are all charming and mysterious at the same time.

Vicki Lane said...

I always imagined this might be kept at a bedside and the evil face would signify 'Not tonight, dear.'

Anonymous said...

hmm, you know what just occurred to me? Can you imagine what would have happened if ebay had been in full effect while Uncle Charley was still alive? He would have needed another house...

Vicki Lane said...

...a truly frightening thought, Amelia.

Eliane Zimmermann said...

what a great lesson about a quite unknown art, thank you! althought having researched and written hundreds of articles about Japanese culture for a German language magazine of a reknown Japanese airline meither my husband nor me ever heard about those cute little sculptures. I am quite nervous those days as my reference book about aromatherapy will be published in Japanese ( and I won't understand a SINGLE word, sob). Thank you for visiting so often. I am really handicapped as our line is either slow or even dead like this morning. I am just trying a new device but it seems to be quite slow, at least in our living house. later I will take the 30 paces to our little office building and I hope for a bit of more speed as it lies a bit higher. we live in a kind of a hollow which protects us from sttrong gales but also from the broadband signal....

Carol Murdock said...

Vicki..those really are some sweet treasures! I love the "not tonight" woman! I think the first ones my favorite! Thanks for showing us these!! :)
I got a couple of neat things this morning at yard sales.

Vicki Lane said...

Eliane -- but how exciting that your book will be pubbed in Japanese! I'm still thrilled with my first two books being in French -- of which I understand only a fraction,

Slow internet is quite a pain -- we were thrilled when our server put in high speed -- and on a tower that is in our line of sight.

Carol - I bet you had fun at the yard sales!

Miss_Yves said...

Amazing collection !All these statues could give you some ideas for a novel ,could they ?
I enjoyed "la montagne des secrets", and now my husband is reading it .
Elizabeth is an interesting character, a kind woman, too kind (I was sorry to see her fascinated by the false priest ...
The story of "petiteS ylvie" is so pitiful...But is a great idea to show the sad detiny of women through the centuries .
And what about the "manipulateurs de serpents " ? may this kind of "church" really exist in the USA ?

Vicki Lane said...

Miss Yves,

I'm excited that you read LA MONTAGNE DES SECRETS. You're right, Elizabeth is too kind -- too trusting. I think she improves in later books.

And yes, Little Sylvie's story is meant to show the sad treatment of women over the ages and, unfortunately, even today.

As for the manipulateurs de serpents -- yes, they do exist, just as I've described. They are mainly in small rural areas of the South (such as where I live) and there have been some fascinating books about them as I mention in the Remerciements at the beginning of the book.

Miss_Yves said...

In fact, I saw "the serpent handlers" in the list of remerciements, but I had some difficulties to believe they could exist !It's awful !

There is another point of interest, according to me, of the sad story of "petite Sylvie" :It's a story half fancied , half realistic, like the work of a writer,(You!) a story inside the story (Mise en abyme)

I read your comment on my blog which made me smile:
Me, I'd like to write a pefect English!

Would it be a good thing for Elizabeth to change , to become less trusting ? I wonder ...
I imagined you garden , (through your blog's photos )while I read the descriptions of Elizabeth's garden !

Vicki Lane said...

I don't find the serpent handlers awful -- misguided, perhaps. But they are acting in a spiritual ecstasy that I believe to be real for them.

Elizabeth's garden is patterned on mine -- though hers is less weedy and her petit pois always prosper while mine are eaten by voles -- (little tunneling rodents like mice.)

You do very well with English -- I wish I did as well with French!