Koma Yasutada (maker)
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 inro is decorated with red and white plum blossoms, with each side of the inro depicting a different colour, and a small bamboo centred on each side.
From the 1700s onwards, many artists signed the inro they made. This example is signed Koma Yasutada. The Koma was one of the great families of lacquer artists who specialised in making and decorating inro. Koma Yasutada was the second Koma master, who died in 1715. The majority of surviving inro that bear this name can be dated stylistically to the end of the 18th or early 19th centuries. Therefore it must be assumed that these were the work of a later member of the family who assumed the name of an earlier master, as was often the practice in Japan.