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  • Place of origin:

    Japan (made)

  • Date:

    19th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Shibata Zeshin, born 1807 - died 1891 (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Black lacquer.

  • 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 by Shibata Zeshin (1807-91), one of the most renowned and highly skilled lacquerers of the 19th century, who presided over a successful workshop with a large output. Although made of lacquer, this inro is made to imitate the form and appearance of a cracked and chipped inkstick. Ogawa Haritsu (1663-1747), widely known by his art name, Ritsuo, was the first artist to pioneer and regularly produce lacquer imitating other media, especially ink sticks. Zeshin also undertook considerable experimentation in this technical field and took inspiration from Haritsu. For this reason Zeshin also signed this inro with the seal of Haritsu.

Physical description

Black lacquer in the form of a cracked and chipped inkstick, by Shibata Zeshin, copying Ogawa Haritsu.

Place of Origin

Japan (made)


19th century (made)


Shibata Zeshin, born 1807 - died 1891 (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Black lacquer.


Height: 7.6 cm, Width: 4.9 cm, Depth: 1.9 cm

Descriptive line

Inro, black lacquer in the form of a cracked and chipped inkstick, by Shibata Zeshin copying Ogawa Haritsu, 19th century





Subjects depicted



Accessories; Containers; Lacquerware


East Asia Collection

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