January 30, 2017
Popular in 17th and 18th century Japan, belt ornaments such as this one are known as netsuke. Used to fasten belongings to a belt, the elaborately carved ornaments also served as symbols of the wearer’s class, wealth, and taste. This example, which is slightly more than an inch tall, is made of ivory and represents a pair of guardian figures known in Japan as shishi, which are represented as having the features of a dog and a lion. Shishi are used to ward away malevolent spirits outside of Buddhist and Shinto shrines. A wide range of netsuke are currently on exhibit in Playing with Spirits: Pokémon and Shintoism.