Wooden Netsuke of a Rat, 19th century


Title: Wooden netsuke of a rat
Artist: Unsigned
Date: 19th century
Size: (H) 3.6 cm x (W) 1.7 cm x (D) 4 cm

Original Japanese antique.

Animals have always been a popular source of inspiration for netsuke carvers, particularly those of the twelve animals of the East Asian zodiac cycle. Such toggles were linked to either the zodiac animal of the current year or the birth of the owner. This rat was probably worn in the year of the rat, or it may have served as a talisman for attracting prosperity. Rats are usually associated with Daikoku, one of the Seven Gods of Good Fortune.


Netsuke were practical fashion accessories worn by Japanese men of the Edo period (1615-1868). Kimono has no pockets, and only women's garments had places in the sleeve to keep small objects. In contrast, men would carry their personal accessories by hanging them from the sash wrapped around their waist. Netsuke would therefore act as a 'toggle' that kept the sash hanging by preventing it from slipping.


Like many other art forms, netsuke reflect the nature of the society that produced them, displaying every aspect of Japanese culture, including its rich folklore and religion, crafts, trades, and professions, all types of people and creatures, both real and imagined, and every kind of object.

More Information
Size(H) 3.6 cm x (W) 1.7 cm x (D) 4 cm
Condition ReportThe item is well-worn, with external areas showing aged wood patina. Some dust residue.
SubjectAnimals & Birds
Product Date19th century