Netsuke and inro in the Ferenc Hopp museum of Eastern Asiatic Arts.
Mr. László Ferenczy, senior curator of the Ferenc Hopp Museum of Eastern Asiatic Arts, Budapest, Hungary, has been associated with the museum for over twenty-five years. He has been the chief organizer for several exhibitions, including “Japanese Art in the Meiji Period,” and the present permanent Japanese art exhibition. The latter consists of the museum’s best pieces from the Nara and Kamakura periods. Buddhist sculptures through the Tokugawa period. as well as tsuba, inro and netsuke through the Meiji period. He has written on various aspects of Oriental art, including two studies on the museum’ inro collection. His book on Japanese decorative arts, with its illustrative material based on the collection of the museum, is scheduled for publication later this year.
Inro and netsuke – or any kind of work of art – sometimes turn up at unexpected corners. Such an occasion is always a most pleasant one to curators, collectors, or visitors alike. The moment of surprise is an essential element in dealing with art, and it can give the impetus to further studies, reading and enjoyment.
The Museum of Eastern Asiatic Arts at Budapest is such an unexpected surprise to foreign visitors. The museum owes its origin and foundation to Mr. Ferenc Hopp. Born in 1833 at Fulnek in Moravia, Ferenc Hopp came to Budapest as a poor but talented lad who was to become an apprentice, and he died as the respected, rich owner of the old Calderoni optical firm. As a young man he studied in Vienna, Berlin, and New York.
He was one of the most traveled Hungarians. He made five long voyages around the world between 1882 and 1914. During his journeys and from the art market he collected more than 4,000 works of Oriental art, mostly from the Far East. He was especially fond of lacquerware, ivory, and semiprecious gem stone carving. Shortly before his death in 1919 he bequeathed his entire collection together with his villa to the state of Hungary. The first exhibition of the museum opened in 1923. At present the museum houses nearly twenty thousand Oriental works of art, the Japanese and Chinese collections making up the majority. Inro and netsuke have been on exhibition several limes.
The villa of Ferenc Hopp has long become too small for the museum collection, necessitating the opening of a second, smaller exhibition building, the former villa of another old-time collector. Being quite near to the Hopp Museum, it carries the name “China Museum.” It usually houses our Far Eastern exhibitions while the original Hopp villa serves as the central office and the library. Our best pieces from India, Pakistan, Mongolia, and the Near East are also exhibited there.
The inro collection is comprised of nearly two hundred pieces. With only a few exceptions they belonged to the original col lection of Ferenc Hopp, who was passionately fond of Japanese lacquer work, probably one of the most difficult and interesting branches of Japanese decorative arts. The inro are of good average quality and the collection well represents the various schools and lacquer techniques of the Tokugawa era. About two dozen of them are older works or of outstanding artistic design and quality, for example, two pieces were made about 1700, half a dozen pieces date írom the eighteenth century, and several are by the members of the Koma, Kajikawa, and Toyo schools of inro makers. The netsuke collection comprises over five hundred pieces. The bulk of them dates from the second half of the nineteenth century and is of good quality. About one-fifth of the col lection is made up of pieces of outstanding quality; half of these belong to the early nineteenth century and the other half are even older. More than fifty percent of the netsuke were collected by Ferenc Hopp. A smaller part came as a donation from Dr. Gyula Bischitz in the late twenties. The rest – generally later carvings – were transferred from the Museum of Applied Arts at Budapest, and a few are new acquisitions. The collection includes some high quality, unsigned eighteenth century wooden carvings and about two dozen original wooden and ivory netsuke with the signatures of such distinguished carvers as Tametaka, Shu-min, Shugetsu, Toyomasa, Tomotada, Masanao, Garaku, Rantei, Suketada, and Kaigyokusai. About twenty-five choice inro and eighty netsuke were to be seen at the latest exhibition of Japanese art and we plan to put another selection on show after the present renovation. Imports and private col lections having run out since the war, we find it virtually impossible now to develop the inro and netsuke collections.
1. The Sennin Koshohei with a goat. Ivory. Unsigned. Height 13.8 cm.
2. Uzume with tengu mask. Wood. Signed Shugetsu.
3. Hannya rnask netsuke. Wood. Signed Shumin.
4. Shoki riding a shishi. Wood. Signed Tametaka.
5. Three-case inro with nunome ground, framed in black and gold lacquer design with inlay ín tortoiseshell. Unsigned.
6. Red lacquer three-case inro depicting the legend of Saru Kani Kassen (the feud between the monkey and the crab.) Unsigned. Height 7.2 cm.
7. Five-case tsuishu lacquer inro, flowering prunus and peonies in high relief. Unsigned. Height 8.6cm.
8. Four-case red and gold lacquer inro depicting a crouching man hiding behind a low screen, a quince tree in the foreground. Eighteenth century. Unsigned. Height 5.9 cm.
9. Three-case inro oi gold makie, ebi among waves, the ebi in carved red lacquer. Early nineteenth century. Signed Koma Kansai. Height 9 3 cm.
10. Five-case inro depicting family preparing machi. Eighteenth century. Signed Kajikawa.
11. Single-case inro of kijimakie ground with heron inlaid in white porcelain. Nineteenth century. Signed Kenya. Height 8 cm.
12. Three-case inro of gold makie on red and black lacquer ground depicting Chokaro Sennin. Eighteenth century. Unsigned. 6.7 cm.
13. Four-case inro with same-nuri ground. Circa 1800. Unsigned. Height 7.7 cm.
14. Three-case gold hiramakie inro with design of aquatic plants and shells
15. Genroku period. Unsigned. Two case inro in farm of bronze mirror. Sabiji ground. Dragon design, the reverse with the figure of a tiger. Signed Kanshosai Toyo. Height 6.7 cm.
16. Kappa with its foot caught in a clamshell. Wood. Signed Suketada. Height 3.3 cm.
17. Duck. Wood. Signed Shumin. Length 4.7 cm.
18. The immortal Shoriken with fan. Wood. Height 5.7 cm
19. Daruma. Lacquered wood. Signed Masanao. Height 3,6 cm
20. Fox disguised as a priest. Wood. Signed Shuzan. Height 5.8 cm.
21. Manju depicting Yama Uba and Kintoki. lvory. Signed Kikugawa Ryukoku.
22. Karasu Tengu among clouds. Wood. Signed Toyomasa. Height 4.6 cm.
23. Uzume carrying a giant mushroom. Wood, the face inlaid in ivory. Signed Minko. (Ueda No. 663). Height 4.6 cm.
24. Seated monkey picking fleas. Wood. Signed Koichi. Height 4.1 cm.
25. Seated dog. Ivory. Signed Caraku. Height 6.3 cm.
26. Sennin with snake, or possibly a priest with reference to the legend of Kiyohime. Wood. Signed Muhachi.
27. Cowherd seated on the back oi the resting animal playing a flute. Wood. Signed Masanao. Height 3.9 cm.
28. Karashishi. Wood. Signed Masakata. Height 3. 3 cm.
29. Portuguese gun. Wood and iron. Unsigned, Length 13.6 cm.
30. Dutchman carrying a deer. Staghorn. Unsigned. Height 9.4 cm.
31. Reclining cow. Ivory. Signed Tomotada. Length 6.5 cm.
32. Rat. Ivory. Unsigned. Length 5 cm.
33. Puppy playing with sandal. Ivory. Signed Rantei. Height 2.9cm
34. Horse and reclining roe. Ivory. Signed Tomomasa. Height 3.6cm
35. Kwanyu. Ivory. Unsigned. Height 9.1 cm.
36. Reclining cow. Ivory. Signed Tomotada. Length 6.2 cm.
37. Dragon over waves, possibly the Dragon King parting the waters far Wakame Kari. Ivory. Unsigned. Length 8.7 cm.
38. Tanuki carrying a teakettle. Ivory. Unsigned. Height 5 cm.
39. Blue and white porcelain manju. Unsigned.
40. Seated monkey. Ivory, the eyes of inlaid hornbill. Signed Kaigyoku. Height 2.9 cm,
41. Dog holding a clamshell. Ivory. Signed Yoshimasa. Height 4 cm.
42. Awabi fisherwoman. Ivory. Signed Tomochika. Height 6.3 cm.
43. Gama Sennin with two toads, one climbing out of the basket. Ivory. Signed Hidemasa.