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  • Place of origin:

    Japan (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1875-1900 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Yutokusai Gyokkei (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Brown, gold and black lacquer inlaid with peal-shell and lead

  • 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.
From the 1700s onwards, many artists signed the inro they made. This example is signed Yutokusai Gyokkei, who worked in the late 1800s. The design of rocks, pines and stormy seas on both sides of the inro is closely based on a three-page spread from a woodblock-printed book. The book, Korin hyakuzu (One hundred sketches by Korin) by Sakai Hoitsu (1761-1828), was published in 1826. Hoitsu was a great admirer of the works of the versatile artist and craftsman, Ogata Korin (1688-1703) and was responsible for a number of books that reproduced Korin’s designs. It was for this reason that a lacquer artist in the late 1800s was able to create his version of an earlier painted design by Korin.

Place of Origin

Japan (made)


ca. 1875-1900 (made)


Yutokusai Gyokkei (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Brown, gold and black lacquer inlaid with peal-shell and lead


Height: 7.1 cm, Width: 5.2 cm, Depth: 2.1 cm

Descriptive line

Inro depicting rocks, pines and stormy seas in brown, gold and black lacquer inlaid with pearl-shell and lead, signed Yutokusai Gyokkei, ca. 1875 - 1900


Lacquer; Shell; Lead


Inlay (process)

Subjects depicted

Rocks; Trees, pine; Sea


Accessories; Containers; Lacquerware


East Asia Collection

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