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Netsuke headline Quinn’s May 4 Japanese works of art auction

19th-century wood netsuke of a snake with visible tongue, signed ‘Toyokazu, son of Toyomasa.’ Ex Christie’s London. Estimate: $2,000-$3,000. Quinn’s image

FALLS CHURCH, Va. – Uniquely Japanese, netsuke have been revered for hundreds of years as miniature artworks fastidiously carved to replicate animals, plants, humans, mythical creatures and other subjects. Traditionally worn at waist level to secure a silk cord around a kimono, early netsuke represent a form of fine art that bears little resemblance to the mass-produced trinkets seen in the marketplace today. So when a collection of beautifully carved antique netsuke becomes available, it’s a cause for celebration among collectors. Bid absentee or live online through LiveAuctioneers.

Quinn’s Auction Galleries will double collectors’ pleasure on Saturday, May 4, with a 310-lot auction of antique and vintage netsuke from two revered sources: a family collection offered by the grandchildren of Asian art collector Nina Louise McCulloch, and the collection of Harry Glass of Long Island, New York.

The auction features several marvelous 19th-century animal-form wood netsuke, including two especially attractive designs that were crafted by the artist Toyokazu. A coiled snake (above) is so highly detailed, its hundreds of notches render a convincing appearance of scales. With provenance from a 1980 Christie’s London sale, it will be offered at Quinn’s with a $2,000-$3,000 estimate. The other Toyokazu of note is a depiction of Handara Sonja / Andraka Sonyu the Dragon. It was purchased at the above-referenced Christie’s sale as well, and is similarly estimated at $2,000-$3,000.

Only a true master of the art could produce the 19th-century netsuke like the one that depicts a cluster of rabbits in the form of a ball (below). Carved from a single piece of wood and artist-signed “Tametaka,” it comes with Christie’s provenance and expectations of reaching $1,500-$2,000 on auction day.

19th-century wood netsuke of a cluster of rabbits, signed ‘Tametaka.’ Ex Christie’s London. Estimate: $1,500-$2,000. Quinn’s image

Also made in the 19th century, a boxwood netsuke of Ashenaga and Tenaga – male and female version – is signed “Hideyuki.” It is offered with a $1,500-$2,000 estimate.

20th-century boxwood netsuke of Ashenaga and Tenaga, male and female version. Signed ‘Hideyuki.’ Est. $1,500-$2,000. Quinn’s image

An impressive netsuke depicting a seated Daruma was made sometime between 1879 and 1944 by Gyokuso, an artist of the South Tokyo School. The figure is shown with his mouth wide open, grimacing, and with a fly-whisk in his hand. It was purchased in 1976 at Christie’s London and is estimated at $2,000-$3,000.

Wood netsuke of seated Daruma with fly-whisk in hand, 1879-1944, signed ‘Gyokuso,’ South Tokyo School. Ex Christie’s London. Estimate: $2,000-$3,000. Quinn’s image

Of the contemporary netsuke in the sale, the most highly valued example is a 24K gold figure of a standing humanoid Kirin looking down with wide eyes and a frightening expression on his face. Created by George Weil, it is artist-signed and expected to command a winning bid of $3,000-$4,000.

George Weil, 14K gold netsuke of a humanoid Kirin, late 20th century, artist-signed. Estimate: $3,000-$4,000. Quinn’s image

Many other prominent Japanese artists are represented in the sale, including Tomotada, Okatomo, Masatada, Hideyuki, Rantei, Morita Soko, and many more. Some of the featured pieces are from distinct schools, such as Kyoto, Tokyo and Insai.

19th-century wood netsuke of Handara Sonja / Andraka Sonyu the Dragon. Signed ‘Toyokaza.’ Ex Christie’s London. Estimate: $2,000-$4,000. Quinn’s image

Quinn’s Saturday, May 4, 2019 gallery auction of Japanese netsuke will begin at 11 a.m. Eastern time. Address: 360 S. Washington St., Falls Church, Virginia 22046. All forms of remote bidding will be available as well, including phone, absentee or live via the Internet through

For additional information about any item in the auction, call 703-532-5632, ext. 572, and ask for specialist Molly Huang, or email

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