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Inro, netsuke and ojime

Inro, netsuke and ojime

  • Place of origin:

    Japan (made)

  • Date:

    17th century (made)
    early 18th century (made)
    early 18th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown (production)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    [Inro] Gold lacquer inlaid with pearl-shell
    [Netsuke] Lacquered with takamaki-e and fundame decoration

  • Credit Line:

    Pfungst Gift

  • Museum number:

    W.110:1 to 3-1922

  • Gallery location:

    Japan, room 45, case 8

  • Download image

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 a ship and stormy sea in gold and black hiramakie (‘low sprinkled picture’) and takamakie (‘high sprinkled picture’) lacquer. Makie 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.
Although this is an early inro from the 1600s, the design is already quite sophisticated. For example, it makes good use of the small size and links both main sides through elements of the design, such as birds flying across. Due to its age, it also shows considerable rubbing to the surface.

Physical description

[Inro] Inro depicting a ship in stormy seas in gold and black hiramaki-e and takamaki-e on a gold lacquer ground, inlaid with pearl-shell. Interior is nashiki.
[Netsuke] A thick, flat, round netsuke, which is decorated with a European ship flying a flag with four bands of red, two gold and blue in bold relief on polished gold powder, within a border of gold ornaments on red.
[Ojime] A silver bead surmounted by a gold squid.

Place of Origin

Japan (made)

Date

17th century (made)
early 18th century (made)
early 18th century (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown (production)

Materials and Techniques

[Inro] Gold lacquer inlaid with pearl-shell
[Netsuke] Lacquered with takamaki-e and fundame decoration

Dimensions

[Inro] Height: 8 cm, Width: 6.2 cm, Depth: 2.5 cm

Descriptive line

Inro, netsuke and ojime, the inro depicting a ship in stormy seas in gold and black hiramakie and takamakie on a gold lacquer ground, inlaid with pearl-shell, made in Japan, 17th and early 18th century

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Julia Hutt, Japanese Inro, V&A Publications, 199s; plate 120

Materials

Lacquer; Shell

Techniques

Inlay (process)

Subjects depicted

Ships; Seas; Flags; Squid

Categories

Containers; Accessories; Lacquerware

Collection code

EAS

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Qr_O120940
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