Turtle Snake Netsuke

A small figurine of a turtle. A snake has coiled itself around the center of the turtle. The netsuke is on a white fabric doily on a wood table.
The turtle netsuke from the Eldon House collection

Country of Origin: Japan
Year: ca. 1890s
Materials: Wood 

This netsuke is another testament to Japanese craftmanship, where the piece is designed to be attractive sitting on a shelf or hanging about the waist. The tortoise is used often in Japanese culture and was sometimes a symbol at weddings, and a symbol of longevity. In Chinese and Japanese culture, a turtle wrapped in a snake could have different meanings. In Chinese art, this is called the Black Tortoise and represents the Northern Constellations. In Japan, there was a myth called Genbu, that a figure of a tortoise wrapped in a snake protected Kyoto’s north side.

This piece was likely purchased by the Harris Family on their trip to Kyoto in November 1897.