A rare large Ryukyu lacquer three-case inro By Xiyan, dated the fifth year of Yongzheng (1727)
Lot 13
A rare large Ryukyu lacquer three-case inro By Xiyan, dated the fifth year of Yongzheng (1727)
Sold for £5,250 (US$ 8,425) inc. premium

Lot Details
A rare large Ryukyu lacquer three-case inro By Xiyan, dated the fifth year of Yongzheng (1727) A rare large Ryukyu lacquer three-case inro By Xiyan, dated the fifth year of Yongzheng (1727) A rare large Ryukyu lacquer three-case inro By Xiyan, dated the fifth year of Yongzheng (1727) A rare large Ryukyu lacquer three-case inro By Xiyan, dated the fifth year of Yongzheng (1727)
A rare large Ryukyu lacquer three-case inro
By Xiyan, dated the fifth year of Yongzheng (1727)
Probably Chinese, bearing a roiro ground, engraved and inlaid in aogai with a Chinese dignitary, probably intended for Cao Cao standing in an open boat, holding a polearm, the reverse with a Chinese general, possibly Kanyu (Guanyu), on horseback with his attendants, in a mountainous landscape, the outlines of delicate shell inlay and the cord runners with formal designs in aogai and the interior of red lacquer, signed and dated in mother-of-pearl, Yongzheng go-nen hinoto-hitsuji jugatsu kichijitsu, Xiyan kore wo tsukuru (Chinese: Yongzheng wunian dingwei shiyue jiri, Xiyan zuozhi [made by Xiyan on an auspicious day in the tenth month, year of the sheep, in the fifth year of Yongzheng [1727]). 11.5cm (4½in).

Footnotes

  • 中国高官と将校図琉球印籠 銘「雍正五年丁未十月吉日喜演作之」 1727年

    Provenance: Lawson-Tait collection.
    W. L. Behrens collection, no.129.

    The size and decorative approach of the present inro represents a typical Ryukyu style. In 1372, the Ryukyu Kingdom established formal tributary relations with Ming China and has since been maintaining it. During a period of rapid interactions, Ryukyuan craftsmen adopted and enhanced Chinese lacquer techniques of chinkin (gilt line-engraving) and raden (mother-of-pearl inlay) and, since the 14th century, lacquer works of art were presented as tributary gifts to the Ming court.

    Due to its strategic position and with its trade network reaching Japan, China and Southeast Asia, the Ryukyu Islands maintained their importance as a centre of trade in the Western Pacific, facilitating a thriving shell-polishing industry and mass production of lacquer objects. Furthermore, following the annexation of Ryukyu by the Satsuma clan in 1609, Japanese influence rose significantly. Inro and other Japanese objects (that were produced as tributary gifts to the Daimyo and important samurai but also exported in mass quantities), retained their distinctive decorative traditions and a black ground was the preferred material for lacquer works of art.

    Following the establishment of Sino-Ryukyuan tribute relation, Chinese reign marks were officially used in Ryukyu, but Ryukyu inro were rarely signed and dated. With the increasingly intimate contacts between Ryukyu and China since the 14th century, Chinese scholars, officials and artisans, and possibly Xiyan (the maker of this inro) among them, began to settle in the village of Kumemura in Ryukyu, while Ryukyuans established their settlement in the Chinese port of Fuzhou.

    This inro offered here is of exceptional and particular interest. Whilst the decorative approach is of typical Ryukyu style, the Chinese reign mark and signature suggest a different stylistic direction. It is quite likely therefore that this inro, with its peculiar signature and characteristic Japanese typology, was produced by Chinese artisans in Ryukyu and intended for export to Japan.

    A similar Ryukyu-style inro from the Kress Collection is published by Else and Heinz Kress, Inro: A Key to the World of Samurai, pl.192. A similarly-signed Chinese inro dated 1759 from the Victoria and Albert Museum, collection number W.397-1916, is illustrated by Else and Heinz Kress, Inro of the Ryukyus: Lacquered Medicine Containers, pl.33.
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