Eastern Art Online, Yousef Jameel Centre for Islamic and Asian Art

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Inrō depicting two Chinese ink-cakes

Glossary (5)

fundame, hiramaki-e, lacquer, nashiji, takamaki-e

  • fundame

    Very fine gold powder densely sprinkled onto wet lacquer, giving a smooth, matt surface.

  • hiramaki-e

    (‘flat sprinkled design’) coloured or metal powders sprinkled onto a wet lacquer ground and usually covered with a protective layer of lacquer

  • lacquer

    Chinese and Japanese lacquer is made from the sap of the lacquer tree, which is indigenous to Eastern China. It is applied to wood as a varnish or for decorative effect. In India and the Middle East, lacquer is made from the deposit of the lac insect.

  • nashiji

    (‘pear skin ground’) tiny, irregularly shaped flakes of gold embedded in amber coloured wet lacquer and then polished to a fine sheen

  • takamaki-e

    (high relief sprinkled design’) makie technique in which parts of the design are built up with lacquer mixed with charcoal or clay dust


    • currently in research collection

Objects are sometimes moved to a different location. Our object location data is usually updated on a monthly basis. Contact the Jameel Study Centre if you are planning to visit the museum to see a particular object on display, or would like to arrange an appointment to see an object in our reserve collections.


Publications online

  • Oriental Lacquer: Chinese and Japanese Lacquer from the Ashmolean Collections by O. R. Impey and M.

    Oriental Lacquer: Chinese and Japanese Lacquer from the Ashmolean Collections

    Inro, three cases. A raised lacquer representation of a cake of Chinese ink on a red ground, style of Ogawa Haritsu (Ritsuo) 1663-1747, signed Korenobu.
  • Japanese Decorative Arts of the Meiji Period 1868-1912 by Oliver Impey and Joyce Seaman

    Japanese Decorative Arts of the Meiji Period

    Inrō with four compartments in red lacquer with a design of two Chinese inkcakes in black takamaki-e and red and gold hiramaki-e. The interior in nashiji and fundame. Two seals on the large circular inkcake read Korenobu Zeshin.

    Shibata Zeshin was apprenticed at the are of eleven to the lacquer master Koma Kansai II (1767-1835) and subsequently studied painting with the Shijō school in Tōkyō under Suzuki Nanrei (1775-1844) and with Okamoto Toyohiko (1773- 1845) in Kyōto. Despite his own skill for original design, Zeshin borrowed this one from Ogawa Haritsu, known as Ritsuō (1663-1747) and used variations of it on serveral of his lacquer pieces. His sparing use of gold and his experimentation with lacquers in imitation of metals, woods and pottery, are a feature of his work.

    With the introduction of Western dress to Japan in 1872, the trouser pocket took the practical place of the inrō, which hung from the waist sash by means of a small toggle (netsuke). Artists, however, continued to make inrō, for their popularity with Western collectors provided a new market. After Zeshin exhibited in the Vienna Exposition in 1873, much of his work made its way into collections in America and Europe. By the end of his life he was as well known abroad as he was in Japan. In 1890, just one year before his death, he was honoured with the title Teishitsu Gigeiin (Imperial Artist), the first artist working with lacquer to recieve it.

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