Celebrating the Year of the Rabbit with ‘Hare Netsuke’

By Daniel Fulco, Ph.D., Agnita M. Stine Schreiber Curator

It’s the year of the rabbit! As Lunar New Year begins today, we hope that you enjoy this Japanese carving in our collection.

Hare 1

Unknown (Japanese)
Hare Netsuke, 20th century
Painted jade
Collection of Washington County Museum of Fine Arts
Gift of Rosalyn E. (Mrs. Louis) Schechter, A2836,93.1251a


Hare 23

Hare 4

Lunar New Year is one of the most significant celebrations in many East Asian cultures. Linked with the lunar calendar, the holiday began as a time for feasting and honoring household and celestial deities, as well as ancestors. Typically, the New Year begins with the first new moon, going through the full moon’s arrival, usually falling from January 21 to February 20. The calendar is represented by twelve animals of the zodiac, each of which is associated with the natural elements of earth, water, fire, wood and metal. We share with you this charming painted jade netsuke rabbit in celebration of 2023—the year of the rabbit.

Initially developed during Japan’s Edo Period (1603–1867), netsuke (miniature sculptures) first served as button fasteners on the cords of inro small cases used for carrying personal objects). Later, netsuke evolved into elaborate pieces of considerable artistry and craftsmanship. This work is a typical example of Katabori-netsuke, a compact three-dimensional figurine carved in the round, which were often made for decorative rather than functional purposes. In Hare Netsuke, the artist created a charming portrayal of a resting rabbit, looking attentively to the left. The carver enlivened the animal’s appearance by using black lines to create striations across the gold-painted surface of its fur,

Works such as this figurine were in high demand as export objects in from the late nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries and gradually evolved to appeal to European and American markets. Japanese artists gradually imported and adapted western sculptural techniques and approaches, they adapted their style to suit an ever-growing group of consumers who purchased decorative pieces for their collections of Asian art.

This WeekendArt is sponsored by Mrs. Theron K. Rinehart