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  • Place of origin:

    Japan (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1775-1850 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Shunsho (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Polychrome lacquer on a black-green ground

  • 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.
Most lacquer workers were able to provide basic designs for their own use. From the 1750s onwards, however, customers increasingly demanded interesting and new inro decoration. Lacquer workers often adapted designs from inexpensive woodblock-printed books that were widely available. Both sides of this inro are based on a double-page spread from Ehon tamakazura (Pictures of vine jewels). This book was published in 1736 and illustrated by Nishikawa Sukenobu. Here you can see a group of courtesans at leisure. On one side, a courtesan is holding up a puppet, while her companions play musical instruments. Shunsho, the maker, has adapted the design because there were too many women in the book illustration to fit comfortably on the small inro. He has left out one of the women and the entire background. The book was published before the development of full colour printing. However, full-colour woodblock prints were extremely popular by the late 1700s when this inro was made. Here, Shunsho has interpreted the design in colour. He has also used the multi-colour togidashie (brought out by polishing) technique that best reflects the effects of a colour print.

Place of Origin

Japan (made)


ca. 1775-1850 (made)


Shunsho (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Polychrome lacquer on a black-green ground


Height: 6.2 cm, Width: 6.8 cm, Depth: 1.9 cm

Descriptive line

Inro, polychrome togidashie (brought out by polishing) lacquer on a black/green ground, cortesans at leisure, signed Shunsho, ca.1775-1850



Subjects depicted

Courtesans; Women


Lacquerware; Accessories; Containers


East Asia Collection

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