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353 of 364 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An artist 's relationship with ancient artefacts, 26 Nov. 2010
This review is from: The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance (Hardcover)
Edmund de Waal is a renowned ceramic artist who's work has been exhibited in Tate Britain and the Victoria and Albert Museum. He can trace his ancestry back to a wealthy Ukrainian family who made their fortune from grain exporting and later banking, and who had spacious and luxurious homes in Vienna, Tokyo and Paris. When Edmund inherited a collection of 264 tiny Japanese netsuke carvings from his Uncle Ignace, he felt prompted to investigate their place in the family history. The Hare With Amber Eyes is the result.

The book opens with De Waal studying in Tokyo in 1991 while on a two year scholarship, visiting his Uncle Iggie (Ignace) in his home in Tokyo, which he shares with Jiro, his partner of 41 years. Ignace has a wonderful collection of netsuke which has been in the family since the late 19th century. Three years later, Uncle Iggie dies, and Jiro writes and signs a document bequeathing the netsuke to Edmund once Jiro himself has gone.

When Edmund eventually owns the netsuke he finds himself greatly intrigued by the history of this remarkable collection, and realises that all he really knows are a few anecdotes, which become thinner in the telling. The only answer is to carry out a proper investigation into their story - and off he sets to visit the locations the netsuke have resided in and to investigate those who owned them before.

The Hare with Amber Eyes is a lovely book. I have read similar accounts of family history where too much is assumed, where scenes are guessed at, conversations created where none could possible be recalled, and personalities are elaborated until they are far too larger than life. Edmund de Waal seems to be a very careful writer. He has only written about what he knows and what he can prove from primary sources. This gives the book a far greater sense of authenticity than many others. In addition, as an artist himself and a creator of fine porcelain objects, he is well suited to trace the course through of these netsuke over the last 150 years - he is wholly equipped to understand the meaning of such things and is adept at communicating his love for them with his readers.

The book is nicely produced and is illustrated with in-text photographs of Edmund's family and the places they lived in. The only omission is pictures of the netsuke themselves. Fortunately a few images of his collection can easily be found online.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 6 Oct 2011 15:26:10 BDT
ricadus says:
I've just seen a copy of the new colour illustrated edition. It includes photographs of the netsuke on its endpapers and within the book. It also has a lot more photos in general, mostly from the family archives, but also some of the Impressionist art. The colour printing of the new book has preserved the subtle richness of the sepia (and later, kodachrome) photos compared to the ones in the current monochrome edition.

In reply to an earlier post on 1 Nov 2011 18:52:29 GMT
Thanks for the additional information
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