What’s the smallest thing on view in the galleries right now? These netsuke might just be it. In fact, they’re so tiny that you may have missed them the last time you were in the Asian Art Gallery. Don’t feel bad—just go back and visit them. They’ll be happy to see you. These quirky little figurines seem trivial and cutesy (a squirrel holding grapes?) but they actually served a very important purpose in Japanese society. Not too shabby for a little object no bigger than your thumb.
It’s always exciting to be contacted by colleagues at other museums about objects in the Museum’s permanent collection. It helps us find out more information about what we have!
In early 2010, I was contacted by Dr. Catherine Yvard, the project manager for the Gothic Ivories Project at the Courtauld Institute in London.
The goal of the project was to produce an electronic catalogue of images and information about sculptures in ivory made in Europe between 1200 and 1530, as well as modern imitations. This database, which required the cooperation of many different institutions around the world, would give researches a powerful tool.
The last comprehensive survey of Gothic ivories was published in 1924, so you can see that an updated catalogue is overdue!