Netsuke, Japanese, 18th-19th century.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
A netsuke is a form of miniature sculpture developed in Japan over a period of several hundred years. They were often beautifully decorated with elaborate carving, lacquer work, or inlays, and were attached to the end of a cord and tucked into the sash of the kimono. This ivory netsuke is of Rakan arranging or shampooing the hair of an 'oni'. In Japanese mythology, Rakan is one of the 16 apostles of Buddha, and an 'oni' is a demon.