A Nanban single-case inro Edo period, 18th century, signed Shonzui
Lot 3015
Single-case Nanban-style lacquer inro with a hidden Christian shrine 18th century
Sold for US$ 20,740 inc. premium
Auction Details
A Nanban single-case inro Edo period, 18th century, signed Shonzui
Lot Details
Single-case Nanban-style lacquer inro with a hidden Christian shrine
18th century
Lacquered roiro and inlaid with fine gilt and silver wires with formal scrolling tendrils, one side with a top view of an exotic bird below a cartouche with the word 'zon' (Dutch: sun), the reverse with the bird in profile and a cartouche with the word 'maan' (Dutch: moon), the interior fitted with a small wood two-part palm shrine, one side carved in bold relief with the Madonna and Child, the other with Christ on the cross, the wood stained dark; fitted with a metal cross ojime and a porcelain netsuke designed as a European trade ship, signed Shonzui
3 1/4 in (8.3 cm)

Footnotes

  • Provenance: Edmund J. Lewis Collection, Chicago

    Literature: Earle, Joe. Shadows and Reflections: Japanese Lacquer Art from the Collection of Edmund J. Lewis (Honolulu: Honolulu Academy of Arts, 1996).

    This inro concealing a palm-shrine may have been used by the "Hidden Christians" (Kakure kirishitan) of Japan during the Edo period when the Tokugawa government implemented a seclusion policy and shut out the rest of the world. Christianity represented a foreign influence and was therefore a threat to the Tokugawa feudal system. When Christianity was officially banned in 1614 there were almost 300,000 Christian converts in Japan. When persecution of Christians became severe, many concealed their faith and devised ways to continue their beliefs and practices in secret. The result was a form of Christianity of great resilience. In the absence of any priests or printed manuscripts, artistic devices such as concealed iconography nurtured and perpetuated the faith.
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