Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.



  • Place of origin:

    Japan (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1775-1850 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Shunsho (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    GPolychromwe lacquer on a green lacquer ground

  • Credit Line:

    Pfungst Gift

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

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. In this example, the black lacquer is inlaid with tiny pieces of gold foil and shell in intricate patterns. In this technique known as aogai (‘blue-green shell’), a highly iridescent shell is used. The pieces are grouped in shades of blue, green, pink and violet, resulting in a rich, colourful effect.
This inro is decorated with a peacock and peahen in a distinctive design closely based on one in the Ehon tsuhoshi (Picture book on various subjects). This was first published in 1729 and illustrated by Tachibana Morikuni.

Place of Origin

Japan (made)


ca. 1775-1850 (made)


Shunsho (maker)

Materials and Techniques

GPolychromwe lacquer on a green lacquer ground


Height: 6.2 cm, Width: 6.8 cm, Depth: 1.9 cm

Descriptive line

Inro depicting courtesans at leisure in polychrome lacquer on a green lacquer ground, signed Shunsho, ca. 1775 - 1850



Subjects depicted



Accessories; Containers; Lacquerware


East Asia Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.