- Place of origin:
ca. 1775-1850 (made)
- Materials and Techniques:
- Credit Line:
- Museum number:
- Gallery location:
The inro is a container made up of tiers. Japanese men used them because the traditional Japanese garment, the kimono, had no pockets. From the late 1500s onwards, Japanese men wore the inro suspended from their sash by a silk cord and a netsuke (toggle). They originally used it to hold their seal and ink or a supply of medicines. However, it rapidly became a costly fashion accessory of little or no practical use. Most inro are rectangular with gently curving sides.
Lacquer was most commonly used in the manufacture of inro since it was highly suitable for storing medicines. Lacquer is the sap from the tree Rhus verniciflua that grows mainly in East Asia. After processing, it is applied in many thin layers to a base material. The craft of lacquering, as well as making inro bodies, is highly complex, time-consuming and expensive. This example is decorated with chrysanthemums by a fence in yamimakie ('dark sprinkled picture') lacquer. Makie ('sprinkled picture') is the most characteristic of Japanese lacquer techniques. It is a generic term for a number of related techniques. They all make use of gold, silver or coloured powders that are sprinkled on to wet lacquer before it hardens. In yamimakie, brown or black powders are sprinkled on to a black lacquer ground. Since a design in black on black lacquer does not readily show up, it is difficult to work and requires the craftsman's utmost skill.
From the 1700s onwards, many artists signed the inro they made. This example is signed Kajikawa, one of the main lacquer families who specialised in making inro. Since the majority of their inro were simply signed 'Kajikawa', it has not only been difficult to establish the names of many of the individual lacquerers, but also to distinguish between their work.
Place of Origin
ca. 1775-1850 (made)
Materials and Techniques
Height: 9.2 cm, Width: 5.3 cm, Depth: 2.9 cm
Inro depicting chrysanthemums by a fence in black lacquer, signed Kajikawa, ca. 1775 - 1850
Containers; Accessories; Lacquerware