Netsuke: Chestnut burr wrapped in leaves, 19th century
Porcelain; H. 1 7/16 in. (3.6 cm), Diam. 1 7/8 in. (4.7 cm)
Edward C. Moore Collection, Bequest of Edward C. Moore, 1891 (91.1.213)
Depending on the complexity of the piece, forming intricate designs from clay is a labor-intensive process where a single slip of the knife could send months of work to a "reject" pile. Similarly, a fragile piece may undergo multiple kiln firings, increasing the possibility of damaging it. Given the difficulty of working with clay, few artists attempted to produce netsuke in this medium.
This netsuke is unusual both for its material and subject matter. Here the smooth upper surface of serrated leaves and petals conceals the spiked chestnut burr in its interior. These exquisite details become visible only to the privileged observer allowed to handle the netsuke and closely inspect its underside.