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Inro

  • Place of origin:

    Japan (made)

  • Date:

    19th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Gold takamakie and hiramakie lacquer inlaid with metal

  • Credit Line:

    Sage Memorial Gift

  • Museum number:

    W.230-1921

  • 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 inro is decorated with the Chinese God of Literature perched on the back of a dragon-fish, a mythical fish. The God holds up a box under a constellation in the sky. It has been possible to trace the source of this design to a page from the woodblock-printed book Morokoshi kinmo zui, published in 1719 and illustrated by Morikuni.

Place of Origin

Japan (made)

Date

19th century (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Gold takamakie and hiramakie lacquer inlaid with metal

Dimensions

Height: 9.2 cm, Width: 5.7 cm, Depth: 2.2 cm

Descriptive line

Inro depicting the Chinese God of Literature perched on a dragon-fish under a constellation in gold lacquer inlaid with metal, 19th century

Materials

Lacquer; Metal

Techniques

Inlay (process)

Subjects depicted

Dragons; Fishes

Categories

Accessories; Containers; Lacquerware

Collection

East Asia Collection

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