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Tito

Registered: Dec 1, 2009
Posts: 128
Reply with quote  #1 

Hello Gentlemen,
I am here once more to request your expert opinion.
Following your advise, I purchased a group of netsukes that appeared original, at a recent auction.  A woman carrying a load of wood; a man on a boat, and a third piece that I can't make out what it could be.  They may not be museum masterpieces, but they are all that I could afford.  They appear to be very old and worn.  I would like to know if you think that they might be as original, or as old, as they appear.
By the way, I am reading a lot.  So far, I have purchased 10 netsuke books, to include 'The Netsuke Handbook of Ueda Reikichi', and the two-volume set 'Netsuke & Inro Artists, and How to Read their Signatures", 1982 edition, by George Lazarnick.  I purchased the latter through Amazon-UK for the incredible price of 274 Euros.  It was delivered to me this morning.  The set is in pristine condition, as though it was never used.  I thought that it was a real bargain.  Volume I of this set came with a hand-written dedication and signature by Lazarnick.  I am including a picture of it on this thread.  Thanks in advance.

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DSW90049

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Registered: April 5, 2009
Posts: 5,434
Reply with quote  #2 
Tito- sounds like you have been busy and productive!  Happy Holidays to you and yours.

You got a very good price on what sounds like a good as new copy of the 2 vol. Lazarnick treatise, with an autograph - maybe from those early 80's Hawaii Nestuke Collectors' Conventions?  There is so much in there that it is hard to imagine.  I probably take mine down every couple of days to read up on this or that which I have seen.  Can the Meinertzhagen (guessed spelling) treatise be far behind?  If you really look hard, you can find incredible pricing on that one too - I did!

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“There is no shortcut to netsuke collecting; it takes time, study and patience. The market is flooded with utterly worthless rubbish. . . .” -“Netsukes: Their Makers, Use and Meaning,” H. Seymour Trower(1898) david
JimLewis

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Registered: Feb 10, 2007
Posts: 793
Reply with quote  #3 
The third netsuke is an abalone on a rock.  It seems badly damaged to me. 

I'm not sure what you mean by "original."  They're all quite crudely carved -- possibly by an amateur carver somewhere; perhaps you could classify them as "folk art.".   The fellow in the boat has a lot of charm.  I'd like to see more of his face.

They do look like there is some age on them, but they're also a bit dirty, and possibly should be cleaned and re-photographed. 




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Jim Lewis - lewisjk@alltel.net - Western NC - People, when Columbus discovered this country, it was plumb full of nuts and berries. And I'm right here to tell you the berries are just about all gone. Uncle Dave Macon, old-time country musician
warburg

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Registered: Dec 26, 2004
Posts: 2,976
Reply with quote  #4 
You did get the Lazarnick book for what today is a very good price. It's an essential book, but it's more or less a reference guide for advanced collectors. I think that what you need is a book with good pictures of collectible netsuke. I highly recommend Matthew Welch and Sharon Chappell, Netsuke: The Japanese Art of Miniature Carving. You can get a copy for $35 on abebooks.com. Don't buy any more netsuke until you've had a chance to study the examples of good netsuke in this book and some of the others you've acquired.
chonchon

Registered: May 18, 2005
Posts: 5,063
Reply with quote  #5 
Tito, you say "Following your advise, I purchased a group of netsukes that appeared original,..."

The advice was not to buy anything yet! With Japanese swords, they say you whould wait 30 years before making a purchase. How about,,, 10 years for Netsuke? (Just joking.)

Most jealous of your books, BTW

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Piers
Vlad

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Registered: Jan 3, 2009
Posts: 4,580
Reply with quote  #6 

Tito, it was also a big misperception that you couldn't afford better. First of all you could've always bought one netsuke for the price of these three, plus also, as chonchon suggested, you could've waited for a little longer. You just got a little inpatient. But this is all good and is a part of the learning process and getting experience. Just never settle for less and be patient. The reward will be worth it at the end!


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"Man sieht nur, was man weiß" - "One sees only what one knows". Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)
Bez

Registered: Nov 1, 2009
Posts: 22
Reply with quote  #7 
tito

Books are essential but they are not everything. However Join the INS and buy back issues if and when you can. It is well worth it.
What you need to do is make friends with other collectors, see their collections if they will let you (be careful, jewelery, rings etc is a big no no).  Visit Museums, auction houses, visit dealers to see what they have on offer. Pick up and examine everything they have, even if your not interested in the piece. Hopefully you will learn to get a feel for them and to recognize whats right, and more importantly, whats not.
Tito

Registered: Dec 1, 2009
Posts: 128
Reply with quote  #8 
Thanks you all for your advise on becoming more knowledgeable about netsuke.  The first step that I have taken in this regard is to gather reading material on the subject, thus, the purchase of books that I have mentioned, to include 'The Japanese Art of Miniature Carving'; basically, all the books that you recommended in my previous thread.
Regading your comments about delaying any purchase of netsuke, if  someone had advised me some years ago, to wait 30 years, as Chonchon stated, before buying the first Japanese sword, I wouldn't have built a collection of bayonets and military swords, to include a few Japanese, as I have.
I recognize that it is prudent to educate yourself as much as possible before purchasing something as complex as an original antique netsuke.  By original antique, I mean a netsuke that was produced in Japan, and that was possibly used as a toggle by someone in the Japanese islands prior to the end of the Maiji period.  The problem that I have is the fact that people in the West have been collecting netsuke for more than a hundred years before I developed any major interest in this hobby.  As a result of this, as someone mentioned in one of INS forums, most of the collectible netsuke are already part of a collection somewhere, and the few that become available, mostly through auction, after a collector's passing, are way beyond my economic range.
I have purchased a few pieces that I considered authentic netsuke at modest prices.  These are the crudely carved' pieces that I have shown in my two postings and that I inquired your opinion about.  After reading your comments about them, and some of the facts that you mentioned; such as the length of time required to make one single netsuke:  four weeks, I couldn't help but wonder that not everyone in Japan must have been able to afford that type of netsuke 150 or 200 years ago.  I can recall those times when I couldn't afford something that was worth a month worth of wages.  I know a lot of people today that can't afford things at that price level.  Similarly, in ancient Japan, there must have been people who were a the lower levels of the economic scale, and couldn't afford a four-week netsuke, but still needed to have some type of toggle to help them to carry needed items on their persons.  Isn't feasible that there were carvers back them that were producing 'one-week' or 'two-week' netsuke to meet this demand?  Isn't feasible that these fast produced, crudely carved, but still authentic, netsuke are the ones that I see being sold at some auction houses and that I am able to buy today?
PS1:  DSW: Thanks for your well wishes.  Happy holidays to you, too.
PS2:  JimLewis:  Thanks for identifying the third netsuke. 
Vlad

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Registered: Jan 3, 2009
Posts: 4,580
Reply with quote  #9 
Tito, you make a lot of sense from your own perspective. People can collect whatever they desire for as long as they are fully aware of what is it that they collect. It will eventually depend on what you decide to call "netsuke" and how you define "authentic". Regulars on this Forum and the members of INS, the Society that supports this Forum, apparently define these two things somewhat differently from you. It may stay this way, or it may change.
The key thing is - netsuke is an art, a fine art or a decorative art, but an art, and to collect art you need means. There is no way around. Otherwise you will end up collecting something else, which is sold on e-bay in thousands. It's a matter of everyone's individual choice and taste, and there is no point of arguing about it. All we are saying - this is not what we collect here.

Happy fishing and Happy Holidays!

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"Man sieht nur, was man weiß" - "One sees only what one knows". Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)
Tito

Registered: Dec 1, 2009
Posts: 128
Reply with quote  #10 
Vlad, thanks for your comment.
I understand that members of INS collect, or strive to collect, museum quality netsuke.
As a beginning collector, I have requested your advise on whether a netsuke that I have is an authentic Japanese netsuke, regardless of whether it is a masterpiece or a crudely made item.
My understanding of a netsuke is what INS defines in its home page, and that I have copied and pasted below:
"What is a netsuke?  A netsuke is a form of miniature sculpture which developed in Japan over a period of more than three hundred years. Netsuke served both functional and aesthetic purposes. The kimono, the traditional form of Japanese dress, had no pockets. Women would tuck small personal items into their sleeves, but men suspended their tobacco pouches, pipes, purses, or writing implements on a silk cord from their obi (kimono sash). These hanging objects are called sagemono. To stop the cord from slipping through the obi, a small toggle was attached. The toggle is called a netsuke. "
The explanation above tells me that if an item was made in Japan during the time period stated, and falls within the definition of a netsuke, is a netsuke.
The INS definition of a netsuke further states that netsuke "were OFTEN beautifully decorated with elaborate carving, lacquer work, or inlays of rare and exotic materials, including: wood, ivory, precious metals, shell, coral, and semi-precious stones"
This sentence defines to me the netsuke that INS members try to collect.  I understand this very well.  This definition also tells me that there were netsuke that were not OFTEN made as described, but, that are netsuke, nonetheless.
I know that the netsuke that I have presented in my threads fall within the "NOT OFTEN made" as exemplary works of art.
I realize that as I gain experience in the world of netsuke, I will be able to recognize "collectible" or "INS standard", netsuke, and, hopefully, I will be able to afford one.  In the meantime, all I am trying to do is determine whether what I have purchased is an original netsuke, as opposed to a fake or knock-off netsuke that was made possibly in China.  
Vlad

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Registered: Jan 3, 2009
Posts: 4,580
Reply with quote  #11 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tito
In the meantime, all I am trying to do is determine whether what I have purchased is an original netsuke, as opposed to a fake or knock-off netsuke that was made possibly in China.  


Tito, unfortunately all of the above is possible. I personally don't think any of the netsuke you've purchased are older than 20th century, nor ever worn or made to be worn, and am not even sure what the first two are made of. The last one seems to be the crown of a deer antler, or at least looks like one. But you ask all the very right questions and are certainly moving in the right direction. Keep reading, watching and possibly even handling if you can get to any of the reputable dealers on this Forum, or to any of the INS Chapter meetings.

Here is what your mingei (the Japanese folk art movement, developed in the late 1920s and 1930s in Japan. Its founding father was Yanagi Sōetsu (1889-1961) antler netsuke carved in the ittobori stile might've looked like, for example...

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"Man sieht nur, was man weiß" - "One sees only what one knows". Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)

Bez

Registered: Nov 1, 2009
Posts: 22
Reply with quote  #12 
Tito,

I agree with Vlad. The last one looks like the crown of a dear antler, and I also personally think all fall within the 20th century. From the pictures. I'm sorry to say I think that they could also be Chinese, they have certainly been made to look older than they are in my opinion.
chonchon

Registered: May 18, 2005
Posts: 5,063
Reply with quote  #13 
On the other hand, I think there is an area of middle ground that Tito is right to try and explore. This is roughly what I was attempting to do with my thread Bits 'n Pieces, as I certainly could not afford to buy top end pieces at famous auction house prices. At the same time I was hoping that I might come across a hidden treasure, a sleeper, that had not been spotted by anyone before, which might add quality to my collection.

An expert took a look at my Tsuba collection not too long ago and said, "Well, you could buy ten tsuba for 100 dollars each, or you could by one Tsuba for 1,000 dollars. In my opinion you are wasting your time on the ten cheap ones." He was partly right, but I prefer doing it the other way round. By touching and feeling and asking questions I am attempting to educate myself in a way that feels comfortable to me. I have a Japanese sword which is not top quality, worth perhaps 3 or 4,000 USD, but it fills a spot, and actually prevents me from going overboard and buying something hugely expensive. One day perhaps...

OK, I am wittering here, but I know where you are coming from Tito!


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Piers
gleeson

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Registered: April 9, 2009
Posts: 875
Reply with quote  #14 
tito, i see your point as well.

my father started buying netsuke in 1981, and seemed to stop in 1995.  his journals indicate that he sold many of his early purchases.  of what remains, i have posted many of his pieces here and gotten feedback, some good some not so good, but always honest.  none of the feedback has diminished the appeal any of the pieces have for me.

he purchased what he could afford, which 'serious collectors' don't always do apparently and, more importantly, he purchased what he liked.  i don't think you can go wrong that way.

for the amusement (or horror?) of all here, i intend to eventually post up all his pieces for comment. 

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cheers, robert
Bez

Registered: Nov 1, 2009
Posts: 22
Reply with quote  #15 
Tito,
Many collectors will buy less than favorable Nestuke when starting out.  Some keep them, others will pass them on if they retain interest in Netsuke and continue to collect.
There are collectors of old and crude pieces carved in the 17th and early 18th centuries. The pieces were carved to be functional rather than beautiful but they are authentic and as you say "INS standard". More importantly, these can be obtained for not excessive prices.

You maybe interested in pieces as described and be happy specializing in Netsuke like these.
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