The Netsuke Collection of W.G. Bosshard Part I
An Exhibition of Important Netsuke
Barry Davies Oriental Art
Illustrated Hardback First Edition1994)
Interest: Books, Antiques, Oriental Antiques, Japanese Antiques, Netsuke,
Lacquer, Inro, Sagemono,
An Exhibition of Important Netsuke. London, 1994. 117 objects sumptuously
catalogued and illustrated in full colour of choice netsuke from an early
post-war collection formed by W.G. Bosshard in Japan.
Hardback: Unpaginated (244 pages)
Publisher: Barry Davies Oriental Art Ltd; First Edition (1994)
Language: Bilingual - English / Japanese
ISBN 10: 1399772368
ISBN-13 : 9781399772365
Illustrated with colour plates
Very Good - DJ shows some signs of shelf-wear/storage. Of special interest,
this copy, I believe, was the original exhibition copy as it has small stickers
to show which items were placed into the exhibit together with markings to show
the return of the Netsuke to W.B.
As with all Barry Davies books, this book doesn't fail in providing
breath-taking images and in-depth descriptions.
No Netsuke collector, enthusiast or dealer should be without this book. It
should prove to be one of the most invaluable references you could own and will
be of significant interest to museums, curators, collectors, dealers and
This book lavishly illustrates and provides full details including signatures
of 117 Netsuke of the utmost highest quality.
Each Netsuke exhibited includes full description, size, signature, which
school it was made by and date made.
Many of the pieces exhibited are quite superb and some are true masterpieces.
Works Exhibited by Netsuke Artists :
Netsuke. Even after all these years the name still conjures up for me images
of an aged craftsman lovingly working a piece of wood into a little treasure.
I have been collecting these little treasures for 30 years. The first one I
purchased in Kyoto in 1965. A small, dimly lit shop with no counter, just a few
shelves of antiques and a couple of stools to sit on and negotiate. The netsuke
felt good to touch. A Junishi (Japanese zodiac) signed by the mastercarver
Masatsugu, but, the dealer said, perhaps a 20th century copy. Still it was
beautiful. And the price was reasonable. So I bought my first netsuke.
Over the next couple of years during my search for more of these beautiful
little carvings I noticed first one then another virtually identical to my
first purchase. But these were signed by different masters. Eventually I found
the source, an 82 year old craftsman delicately carving on instructions from
dealers! 'Craftsman have to eat, and the dealers insist on names they can
sell', he told me. 'Please recarve the signature of the artist who carved this
beautiful piece', I requested, and he put his own name to the netsuke I started
my collection with. I still have it. It is now signed Meigyokusai on a red
Like any work of art that becomes valuable and collectable, netsuke attract
copiers. But if the work is beautiful, it has a value in its own right. Art is
always art, even if it is newly created. Over the years and through study I
came to recognise how to distinguish the works of the old masters, and of the
new. I collected both with equal enthusiasm, loving them for their quality,
style and humour. I hope that the illustrations of my collection will help you
distinguish those pieces that you particularly like, and that the descriptions,
and biographies of the artists will help you determine the shape of your
collection. -- William G Bosshard - Tokyo, June 1994.
It is with great pleasure and privilege that I am writing to introduce an
exhibition of the first part of the netsuke collection of Mr W.G. (Willi)
Bosshard. Willi is one of the last great early post-war netsuke collectors, and
I feel a sense of great achievement that I have been able to prize from him
these beloved pieces. How it was managed would reveal far too much! However, it
did happily coincide with the announcement just recently that Willi was to
retire from his position as Senior Managing Director of Nestlé in Japan, and
leave that country, his home for 27 years, to live in Switzerland, the country
where he was born, where he is now pursuing other interests.
Willi Bosshard was born on July 20 1936 in Ruti, a small town near Zurich,
into a family traditionally involved in collecting works of art. His education,
business acumen and command of languages inevitably drew him to a major
multi-national company, and he joined Nestlé SA, the worlds largest food
company, in 1958. Willi's career took him to many different parts of the world
including the Far East, and it was in Japan in 1965 that he saw and purchased
his first netsuke. This was a truly momentous year for Willi, since it was also
when he met his wife, Ursula (Uschi). In January 1967 Willi was sent by Nestlé
to Japan to set up a special food services division, and lived there, first in
Kobe, and then Tokyo, until this year. He married Uschi in 1968, and they have
one son, Nicholas, who started his own netsuke collection, under Willi's
guidance, at the age of 9!
I first met Willi in Kobe in 1979, and marvelled at his collection. Many of
his best pieces had been acquired through his contacts in Japan, surprisingly
an unusual source for western collectors in those days. Happily, I discovered
that I had things other than netsuke in common with Willi during my visit.
Willi is a renowned bon vivant, gourmet and wine connoisseur. I became better
acquainted with him in 1986 when my wife Christine and I attended a memorable
event — his 50th Birthday, the celebrated 'Fifty Years Of Willi Bosshard'.
Willi organised an extraordinary party. He invited over 100 guests to Zurich,
then travelled on the Orient Express, touring the Swiss countryside for 12
hours, with Anton Moshimann preparing a ten-course dinner. The revelry
continued at a jazz party in the Great Hall of Schloss Laufen, a castle
overlooking a the Rhine Falls: We then returned by torch-lit procession to the
train for coffee and croissants at 5 a.m.! Willi was the perfect host,
charming, fun, vibrant and mischievous. His outward jocularity belied the
serious work put into the organisation of this event, and the tremendous
attention to detail involved. I observed in him the same attitude that he
applied to his collecting. Willi loves the fun of acquiring netsuke; he enjoys
stories of their discovery, and delights in the intrigue surrounding the
relationship between dealers and collectors. However, beneath lies a serious
connoisseur, with great academic knowledge and appreciation of quality, as is
apparent from his collection. He is a great character, and as eccentric as most
other good collectors. As far as I am aware, he is the only collector who
demanded to know the weight of a netsuke when offered it for sale! Again, this
apparently flippant request hid a serious motive. The weight of a netsuke is
the perfect indication of its mass, and therefore size. This was especially
important to Willi as his taste developed towards the earlier, bolder, and
larger pieces. He was also very serious, as ever, about accuracy. On one
occasion I sent him an Kyoto rat, having previously informed him of the weight.
When Willi received it he called me, to enquire by which airline I had sent it.
I told him. Willi, ever the gourmet, then informed me that he would never fly
with that particular airline again. Intrigued, I enquired why, to be told that
the cuisine had to be awful — the rat had lost 0.2 grams during the journey! A
reprimand delivered with his usual panache. I have arranged the order of the
collection in the catalogue to commence with Zodiac animals. It was appropriate
to start with rats, since not only is it the first animal of the Zodiac cycle,
Willi was born in the Year of the Rat, and his penchant for netsuke of this
subject is legendary. Also, in deference to the great friendships, through
netsuke or otherwise, that Willi formed during the happy years he lived in his
country of adoption, I have translated the text fully into Japanese, the first
time — as far as I know — that this has been done for an exhibition catalogue.
My usual thanks to my superb team in assisting me in the preparation of this
catalogue: my wife, Christine; Valerie Newman, Malcolm Fairley; Richard Barker;
Tsumugi Shoji; Colin Murray; Catherine Murray; Reneé Yeater and Dianne O'Bryan.
Finally, special thanks to Willi and Uschi Bosshard for giving me this prized
opportunity of cataloguing the first part of their collection. Collectors and
dealers everywhere will, I am sure, join me in wishing them both a happy and
fulfilled retirement --Barry Davies.
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