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  • Place of origin:

    Japan (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1650-1750 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Brown and gold hiramakie lacquer inlaid with tortoiseshell and gold foil

  • Credit Line:

    Harding Smith Collection

  • 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.
This example is one of a group of relatively early inro, which makes characteristic and distinctive use of carved tortoiseshell. This is usually combined with a fern scroll in gold on black or brown lacquer. The carved tortoiseshell is also laid over pieces of gold foil that highlight certain parts of the design.

Place of Origin

Japan (made)


ca. 1650-1750 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Brown and gold hiramakie lacquer inlaid with tortoiseshell and gold foil

Descriptive line

Inro depicting a mountain landscape in gold and brown hiramakie lacquer inlaid with tortoiseshell and gold foil, ca. 1650 - 1750


Lacquer; Tortoiseshell


Inlay (process)

Subjects depicted



Accessories; Containers; Lacquerware


East Asia Collection

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