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Inro, 1750-1800, Japan. Glazed earthenware, painted with underglaze and overglaze enamels.

"Inro is a container made up of tiers. From the late 16th century, Japanese men wore an inro suspended from their sash by a silk cord and a netsuke (toggle) because the traditional Japanese garment, the kimono, had no pockets. They were originally used to hold their owner’s seal and ink or a supply of medicines. However, inro rapidly became costly fashion accessories of little or no practical use. Most inro are rectangular with gently curving sides. 
This example is decorated with real and imaginary birds and animals in glazed earthenware. Ceramic inro are unusual, especially at this early date. The background of this design, however, suggests that it imitates leather. During the late 1700s and early 1800s, Dutch leather became popular in Japan and the craftsman who made this inro probably had knowledge of such exotic wares. The design of this inro, moreover, is based on a yet unidentified western engraving. " V&A Museum (Pfungst Gift)

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