unsigned ivory netsuke

19th century

clam and awabi shell

length 1 3/4 in., 4.3 cm

a small clam shell balances on a the peak of a larger awabi (abalone) shell; the underside of the awabi sensitively stippled to suggest the fleshy interior of the mollusk, stained to highlight details

Both the abalone the clam carry sexual connotations in Japanese art, acting as visual short-hand for women. Clams were a particular favorite with netsuke carvers who frequently portrayed hapless men caught in various compromising positions by the closed 'lips' of the shell.

another view


Scholten Japanese Art is open Monday - Friday, and some Saturdays by appointment only

Contact Katherine Martin at
(212) 585-0474 or email
to schedule a visit between 11am and 4pm for no more than two individuals at a time.
In order to adhere to New York State guidelines visitors are asked to wear face masks and practice social distancing.

site last updated
February 28, 2021

Scholten Japanese Art
145 West 58th Street, suite 6D
New York, New York 10019
ph: (212) 585-0474
fx: (212) 585-0475