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  • Place of origin:

    Japan (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1650-1750 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:


  • 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 16th century onwards, Japanese men wore theinro 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 of rectangular flattened form with gently curving sides.

This inrobelongs to a small group, all decorated with closely related subject matter of Chinese gentlemn pursuing scholarly activities. These were carried out in very similar lacquer techniques between 1650 and 1750, probably in the same workshop. Unlike the other inro in this group, this example is in the form of a saya inro (sheath inro). This differs from a standard inro in that the main body is enclosed in an outer sheath that contains the silk cord. In this inro large parts of the sheath are cut away to reveal the Chinese scholars depicted on the main body.

Physical description

This sheath inro, of rectangular form and elliptical cross-section, is decorated with scholars in gold and silver hiramakie ('flat sprinkled picture') and takamakie ('raised sprinkled picture') lacquer, black lacquer and kirigane ('cut gold') on a gold lacquer ground .

Place of Origin

Japan (made)


ca. 1650-1750 (made)


Unknown (maker)

Materials and Techniques



Height: 10.16 cm, Width: 6.35 cm, Depth: 3.2 cm

Descriptive line

Inro depicting scholars, gold lacquer ground with gold and silver and black lacquer, Japan, ca.1650-1750.

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

Julia Hutt, Japanese Inro, , V&A Publications, 1997; plate 92



Subjects depicted



Containers; Lacquerware; Accessories


East Asia Collection

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