Somada lacquer inro dansu [inro storage case], unsigned

Circa 1800, Japan

Height: 29.2 cm, 11.5 inches. Length: 20.3 cm, 8 inches

A rectangular box with nashiji rims and a silver handle, the door fitted with a silver latch and hinges chiseled with kiri design opening to reveal a set of three drawers decreasing in height towards the top, all fitted with silver drawer pulls, the exterior of the box and drawers lavishly decorated in gold and silver togidashi-e, gold and silver foil, kirikane, Somada-style aogai [iridescent shell] inlays and soft metal details on a roiro-nuri ground, the sides with a continuous scene of lakeside Chinese pavilions set in a mountainous landscape scattered with various trees including pine and willow, top and interior of the door similarly decorated, the drawers decorated with the auspicious objects [takaramono] associated with the Seven Gods of Good Fortune such as scrolls [makimono], Daikoku’s mallet [tsuchi], hat and cloak of invisibility, a coral branch, uchiwa and a treasure bag with flaming jewels, weights [fundo] and shippo tsunagi designs strewn about, the interior of the box and drawers in scattered hirame on a roiro-nuri ground, accompanied by a wood storage box.


In this lacquer piece, a particular lacquer technique called Somada-zaiku is predominant. This is a type of raden [a mother-of-pearl inlay technique] which originates in Tang period (618-906) in China. However, raden employs thicker and larger milky-white mother-of-pearl inlays thus placing a greater contrast between the lacquer ground and inlays, while the Somada technique uses extremely thin and iridescent bluish green aogai inlays producing an extremely delicate effect.

This technique is learned from the Chinese in Nagasaki by Somada Kiyosuke (Seiho) (act. 1716-1736) of Kyoto and named after him. Invited by Maeda Shoho (1649-1706), the second lord of the Toyama clan, Somada settled in the notherneastern province of Toyama, now Ishikawa prefecture. There he and his descendants perfected the technique of incorporating gold and silver kirikane with iridescent shell inlays on a glossy black lacquer ground as well as togidashi. As illustrated in this lot, the Somada technique is executed with such elegance and precision that the ware transcends its Chinese prototype.

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