Edo period, early 19th century


The Dutchman, with a friendly smile, clutches a crane which seems to be at ease in his arms. He wears a brimmed hat over curly hair which ends in a long tail on his back. His three-quarter length frock coat, over knee-length trousers, is decorated at the bottom hem with a stylised wave motif and a single flower. This is an exceptionally fine carved netsuke with great detail.


H. 9 cm


Netsuke depicting Dutchmen constitute a clearly recognizable group of netsuke; Dutcmen are long, goggle-eyed, bow-legged, with a large nose and bad teeth. They wear a wide-brimmed hat with a feather or tassel, a bowler hat or a seaman's cap, a long coat decorated with Chinese motives of dragons, clouds or waves, over knickerbockers and long buttoned socks in low shoes The portrayal of the Dutch by Japanese artist was popular from the late 18th and during most of the 19th century and presents us with a fascinating insight into the Japanese perception of things foreign. In many Japanese communities, mainly in the south, based on old myths and popular wisdom, foreigners were considered bringers of good fortune, possessing magical powers and coming from unknown southern lands. Netsuke of Dutchmen, therefore, were not only depictions of the exotic appearances of Westerners, but probably had talismanic functions as well, such as warding off evil and bringing wealth (for more netsukes of Dutchmen see Uit Verre Streken, November 2018). After Japan had been forced, in the 1850s, to open the country to Western powers, Japan quickly modernized and the Japanese also started to adopt western clothing. This made an end to the use of and to a large extent to the making of, netsuke and inro.

Rare Netsuke of a Dutchman holding a Crane