Kajikawa Bunryusai (maker)
Black, gold, silver and red lacquer inlaid with gold foil
Metal beads, lacquered wood netsuke
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 example is decorated with a courtier�s hat and cherry blossom in gold, silver and black takamakie (�high sprinkled picture�) lacquer. Makie is the most characteristic of Japanese lacquer techniques. It is a generic term for a number of related techniques. They all make use of gold, silver or coloured powders that are sprinkled on to wet lacquer before it hardens.
From the 1700s onwards, many artists signed the inro they made. This example is signed kanko (official craftsman) Kajikawa Bunryusai. The Kajikawa were one of the main lacquer families who specialised in making inro. Although the third Kajikawa master was called Bunryusai, the use of this name on a number of inro refers to the work of one or two lacquer artists who were active from around the mid-eighteenth to mid-nineteenth centuries. They can be differentiated as Bunryusai II and III. This inro was probably made by Bunryusai II.
Sage Memorial Gift