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  • Place of origin:

    Japan (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1775-1850 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Worn wood with grey and gold lacquer and glazed pottery

  • Credit Line:

    Alexander 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.
The majority of inro were made of lacquer over a core material. However, in some cases, the entire body was carved or formed from a solid piece of material, such as worn and rough wood in this example. This example is decorated with a richly caparisoned elephant in glazed pottery centred on one side of the inro. By using this simple device, the viewer’s eye is cleverly led from one side to the other. The reverse of the inro also bears an inscription that occurs in two Chinese woodblock printed books specialising in inkcakes, Fangshi mopu, by Fang Yulu, published in 1588, and Chengshi moyuan, by Cheng Dayue, published in 1606.
From the 1700s onwards, many artists signed the inro they made. Although this example is not signed, there are a number of almost identical examples that bear the name of Ogawa Haritsu. Haritsu (1663-1747), also known by his art name Ritsuo, was a talented and versatile artist. He specialised in ceramics, painting and lacquer. Most of his lacquer work has a wood or lacquer ground which he inlaid with a wide variety of materials.

Place of Origin

Japan (made)


ca. 1775-1850 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Worn wood with grey and gold lacquer and glazed pottery


Height: 6.4 cm, Width: 5.7 cm, Depth: 2.3 cm

Descriptive line

Inro depicting an elephant in grey and gold lacquer and glazed pottery on worn wood, ca. 1775-1850


Wood; Lacquer; Earthenware

Subjects depicted



Accessories; Containers; Lacquerware


East Asia Collection

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