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Inro

  • Place of origin:

    Japan (made)

  • Date:

    19th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Black, gold, silver and red lacquer, with pearl-shell

  • Credit Line:

    Pfungst Gift

  • Museum number:

    W.220-1922

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

The inro is a tiered container that was traditionally worn by men only. Since the traditional Japanese garment, the kimono, had no pockets, men first used inro to carry daily necessities. From the late 1500s onwards, they wore them suspended from their sashes by a silk cord and netsuke (toggle). However the inro rapidly became a costly fashion accessory of little or no practical use.
Most inro are rectangular, with gently curving sides. From the 1750s onwards, craftsmen tried to find interesting and inventive ways to decorate the small surface. Sometimes they modelled the entire body in the form of another object. This example represents a birdcage. The maker has cleverly created a sense of depth by showing the bird behind bars.
Many inro were made of lacquer because it was highly suitable for storing medicines. Lacquer is the sap from the tree Rhus verniciflua that grows mainly in East Asia. The sap was processed, and the lacquer worker would then apply it in many thin layers to the base material. The craft of lacquering, as well as making inro bodies, is highly complex, time-consuming and expensive.

Physical description

Inro in the form of a caged bird, black silver, gold and red lacquer with pearl- shell

Place of Origin

Japan (made)

Date

19th century (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Black, gold, silver and red lacquer, with pearl-shell

Dimensions

Height: 7.0 cm, Width: 5.1 cm, Depth: 1.9 cm

Descriptive line

Inro in the form of a caged bird, black, silver, gold and red lacquer, with pearl-shell, 19th century

Materials

Lacquer

Subjects depicted

Birdcage (container); Bird

Categories

Lacquerware; Accessories; Containers

Collection

East Asia Collection

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