An Entire World in the Palm of Your Hand: Netsuke in London Museums
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Netsuke, which literally means "root attachment," are a traditional Japanese art form that developed out of necessity in the Edo period. Since the kimono does not have pockets, men did not have a place in their clothing to carry personal items. Women could use their sleeves to carry small trifles. Netsuke are toggles, one and a half to two inches per side, used to attach a hanging item (sagemono), most often a layered purse (inro), to a man?s obi. Netsuke began as simple pieces of wood or stone and evolved into complex carvings. Netsuke?s development from a purely functional item to a fashionable item can be likened to the development of the modern-day keychain. During the late 19th century, Westerners began importing netsuke on a large scale. My research focuses on how Western museums have constructed the viewing and valuing of netsuke. A museum exhibit establishes viewers? point of focus and frames the interrelationships between objects. In other words, it socializes them. I intend to investigate how the socializations of netsuke in London compare to how netsuke were originally viewed, and how Western display techniques affect viewer?s understanding and appreciation of the art form.