Netsuke of a man and a fox (around 1870). Netsuke from the de Waal Collection at Matthew Barton, London, 21 November. Estimate £600-£800.
As chronicled in his book, The Hare with the Amber Eyes, the ceramicist Edmund de Waal’s great-great uncle gave away his collection of netsuke to his cousin Viktor von Ephrussi of Vienna in 1889. Though the Nazis seized the family’s Viennese palace in 1938, these netsuke—small toggles to hold together or suspend items from kimonos—were saved thanks to a savvy maid who was secretly squirreling them away in a mattress. When De Waal’s grandmother Elisabeth returned to Vienna, 264 netsuke were restored to her family and 80 of them, including this man-and-fox number, will be featured in this sale.