Japanese and Chinese antiques and art from B & C
Fine Four-Case Somada School Lacquer Inro

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Directory: Antiques: Regional Art: Asian: Japanese: Lacquer: Pre 1920: item # 151525

Please refer to our stock # SB-19A48 when inquiring.

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B & C   Antiques
P. O. Box 291
Derby, CT 06418

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Fine Four-Case Somada School Lacquer Inro
This exquisite diminutive inro is decorated on both sides with shimmering iridescent aogai (“blue-green shell”) inlay depicting peony blossoms and leaves interspersed with small pieces of gold foil inlay (kirigane) on a rich black roiro-nuri lacquer ground. Meiji period (1868-1912). Unsigned; black lacquer interior. Roiro is a technique using the highest quality black urushi lacquer, applied and polished in several layers. It is only used on the highest quality inro. It is fitted with a pierced metal ojime and a simple lacquer netsuke. The netsuke is a study of two clams, with a small black lacquer clam on top of a larger brown lacquer clam. The top, bottom and side surfaces of this inro are decorated with sparkling, radiant aogai in incredibly fine, minutely-detailed geometric patterns that look like lac bergaute. The shell was carefully selected for its inherent colorful hues and was painstakingly assembled to produce shades of blue, green, pink and violet.

The Somada style of lacquering developed in the mid-18th century. The highly skilled craftsmen of this school specialized in intricate mosaic inlays of rich colorful iridescent aogai shell and often tiny pieces of gold and silver foil. Tiny flakes of rainbow-colored shell were sliced paper-thin and imbedded flush with the lustrous black roiro lacquered surface to form a precise and highly intricate design. Their black background lacquer was deep in color and usually of excellent quality. Their works were rarely signed. The word “Somada” has come to be a generic term used to describe this style of lavish and highly colorful inlay. (See “Inro and Other Miniature Forms of Japanese Lacquer Art” by Melvin and Betty Jahss.)

Inro are small Japanese containers made in several sections which are fitted on top of each other so perfectly that the joints are hardly noticeable. They were carried on the right hip, suspended from the obi with a double silk cord attached to a netsuke. A small bead (ojime) held the cords together just below the obi. The earliest inro were used for containing seals; however, in later they were used as medicine boxes.

CONDITION of this little jewel is excellent.

DIMENSIONS: 3” (7.7 cm) x 1 1/8” (2.8 cm) x ¾” (2 cm) deep.

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