Look at this erotic netsuke that has been finely carved. Notice the nude body of the woman, as the octopus hugs her around the hips. In Oriental art, animal symbolism plays an important role. The octopus is an erotic symbol as it makes amorous advances and in many netsukes, the octopus might have nine arms instead of eight, signifying the phallus. Look at this shunga netsuke, with a popular depiction of sexual position and symbolism. See how the octopus tentacles are wrapped around the waist and arms of the lady. See the curve of the woman and how she holds her feet with the hands as the octopus tries to cling on to her.

Her hair has been hand-painted and each strand is clearly done, such that it looks natural. Only water colors are used to bring out the luster of the ivory. The highlights of brown on the octopus’s tentacles show the each suction pad clearly visible. The artist has managed to grasp the significance of the art form and carved accordingly. Notice the big beady eyes of the octopus and the wrinkled forehead. The octopus is wrapped around the lady completely.

At the bottom, there are two holes, a key aspect of the netsuke, as the utility of it was used as a button or toggle. Two silken cords were put through the holes, to hang from the robe’s obi or sash. Netsuke has an aesthetic and utility purpose and to accentuate the beauty of the bead, it was hand carved by the artists over the ages. Today, the art for has become a collectible as the utility has been lost due to the change of apparel.


Mammoth ivory netsukes are absolutely legal worldwide.

You can read more about Erotic Netsuke in our education Center.

You can read more about Mammoth Ivory in our education Center.