Looking at, describing and identifying objects
Looking at, describing and identifying objects

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Looking at, describing and identifying objects

5 Life cycle: consumption

The early life of the nineteenth-century netsuke is not recorded but information held by the museum helps reconstruct the ‘consumption’ stage of the netsuke’s biography. The ‘Acquisition notes’ say it was acquired in Japan. It was probably given as a ‘ritual gift’ by the then emperor of Japan, Hirohito (1901–1989), to the Duke of Gloucester when the duke made a state visit to Japan in 1929 to confer the Order of the Garter on the emperor (Best, 2005; and see Figure 4). The visit was designed to improve Anglo-Japanese relations, and amid much exchange of ceremonial awards it seems likely that the netsuke was a gift rather than a private purchase. In these circumstances the netsuke was acting in a ceremonial role as a prestige gift rather than simply being an ordinary present of a belt toggle. Subsequently, the netsuke was transported around the world and became part of the collection of the Duke of Gloucester.

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Figure 4  Emperor Hirohito being decorated with the Order of the Garter by the Duke of Gloucester, 1 June 1929. Photo: Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

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