An early four-case inro depicting a dragon and tiger. To the front, a tiger is seated with one paw raised and huge shoulders bulging above its head. The tiger has been paired with a plum blossom tree, a nice departure from the more commonly seen bamboo. To the verso, a dragon is appearing from a swirl of clouds. The inro, which dates to the 17th century or possibly earlier, is worn in places but the delicate and fine detail of the dragon and tiger’s body are still well visible. The inro has some small losses to the edges but, surprisingly, no damage to the main picture area and certainly nothing more than one would expect of an old inro. Also worth noting is the quality of the case; the compartments all still fit very well, and open and close freely.
Internal compartments in old orange nashiji and gold fundame.
The tiger and dragon were a subject that gained favour with many painters and artists in Japan. It became a favourite subject of the Kano school and, looking at the style of the almost comical hulk-like shoulders of the tiger in our inro and comparing them to this 15th/16th century painting by Kanō Motonobu, I am sure that somewhere out there exists a Kano school screen or painting of our tiger and dragon pair.
17th century or earlier
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