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Asian Art

Inro with a Chrysanthemum-Blossom Pattern

early 19th century

Inro: gold lacquer ground on wood with gold, silver, and red pigment, and decoration in togidashi maki-e, and nashiji on the interior; netsuke: ivory; ojime: variegated stone

3 5/8 × 1 3/4 in. (9.2 × 4.4 cm)
Bequest of Florence Baiz Van Volkenburgh in memory of her husband, Thomas Sedgwick Van Volkenburgh, B.A. 1866
1940.247
Because the traditional Japanese kimono is devoid of pockets, a number of hanging containers were developed. Inro, made of the best lacquered wood or lacquered ox-hide, were the most expensive and treasured of these containers. The inro (literally “seal baskets”) were originally used by men to carry personal seals, but during the Edo period (1615–1868), these compartmented cases came to be used for medicine or special items like letters and charms. Attached to the inro is a netsuke (or toggle, literally “root attach”), often made of ivory or wood, which acts as a stopper to prevent the inro from slipping off a kimono sash. The ojime (“cord tightener”) is a bead used to tighten the cords that keep the tiered containers of the inro strung together. By the eighteenth century, the functional aspect of the inro ensemble became secondary, and it increasingly served as a personal adornment. Samurai and townsmen alike expressed their individuality through their inro’s material, technique, design, and shape.
Geography: 
Japan
Culture: 
Japanese
Period: 
Edo period (1615–1868)
Classification: 
Containers - Lacquer
Provenance: 

Florence Baiz van Volkenburgh (died 1940), New York, NY; bequest in 1940 to the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.