De Waal Netsuke collection brings welcome addition to Blythe Road auction

A welcome addition to the November 21 Asian Works of Art sale at Matthew Barton (24% buyer’s premium) of 25 Blythe Road in west London were 79 netsuke from the collection belonging to Edmund de Waal, author of the bestselling memoir ‘The Hare with Amber Eyes’. London Japanese art dealer Max Rutherston helped organise the sale and took this section of the auction.

Extracted from Antiques Trade Gazette | Roland Arkell

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The hammer total, just shy of £80,000 and close to three times the high estimate, will be donated by de Waal to the Refugee Council.

A large ivory netsuke of a monkey and her young c.1800 led proceedings at £3200.

Eighteen of the pieces were bought by the owner of the house in Tunbridge Wells where de Waal’s great-grandparents lived after fleeing persecution in 1939. The majority of the collection, including the hare referred to in the title, has been placed by the family on long-term loan in the Jewish Museum in Vienna.

Stag antler from Asakusa

Among the netsuke at Roseberys was this 19th century antler horn netsuke by Hoshunsai Masayuki, one of the distinctive group of carvers associated with the Asakusa district of Tokyo. Carved as a badger dressed as a priest holding a mokugyo (temple gong), it sold to an online bidder at £5200.

Stag antler carving – the subject of a book and exhibition held by Sydney Moss in 2016 – performed well elsewhere. Another Asakusa netsuke of an owl, cleverly using the irregularities of the material to form the plumage on its breast, with the seal mark koku (the moniker of the Edo-Meiji period maestro Kokusai), sold for £3200 (estimate £1500-2000) at Woolley & Wallis.