Inro, netsuke and ojime
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W.131:1 to 3-1922
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Inro is a container made up of tiers. From the late 16th century, Japanese men wore an inro suspended from their sash by a silk cord and a netsuke (toggle) because the traditional Japanese garment, the kimono, had no pockets. They were originally used to hold their owner's seal and ink or a supply of medicines. However, inro rapidly became costly fashion accessories 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 roundels of flowers in hiramakie (‘flat sprinkled picture’) and takamakie (‘high 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.
From the 1700s onwards, many artists signed the inro they made. This example is signed Koma Koryu. The Koma was one of the great families of lacquer artists who specialised in making and decorating inro. Koryu, whose original family name was Kimura, was adopted into the Koma family by his brother-in-law, Kyuhaku III. Koryu is known to have died during the Temmei period (1781-89).
Place of Origin
Inro, netsuke and ojime, the inro depicting roundels of flowers and foliage in gold lacquer inlaid with gold foil, signed Koma Koryu, ca. 1775 - 1850
Accessories; Containers; Lacquerware
East Asia Collection