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May 2006


COLLECTIBLES

The World of the Buddha

(Page 4 of 5)

He cautions enthusiasts against "getting examples of every pose, every image, from every culture in the world," insisting "no one collects just Buddhas." But he does emphasize the decorative appeal of acquiring one or two choice figures and complementing them with furniture, prints, Japanese screens, ceramics or other artistic works to create interiors with a harmonious theme.

Arguably the best spiritual complement to larger Buddhist figures are netsuke. Intimate one- to two-inch sculptures conceived by Japanese carvers in the 17th century to help secure objects to obis, these toggles depicting animals, humorous scenes and Buddhist stories have recently gained popularity. Skyrocketing 300 to 400 percent in value during the last five years, ivory netsuke are priced from $250 to the six figures. According to Roberta Weir, they also "help decode Buddhist mythology."

"Netsuke have allegorical Buddhist meanings and may follow a mythical or religious legend," says Weir. "Some are deities, part of the Buddhist folklore, while many are anecdotal and whimsical. As you collect them, you can put all of the dots together, and that's very stimulating." But to savor fully these miniatures, which can become personal companions when attached to garments, collectors should first discover the inspiration for those anecdotes and learn more about those powerful Buddhas.

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