Victoria and Albert

The Victoria and Albert inro collection

(This is “art” stuff. For the Chopin Competition coverage, scroll down).

Like the title says.

An inrō is a traditional Japanese case for holding small objects. Because traditional Japanese garb lacked pockets, objects were often carried by hanging them from the obi, or sash. Most types of these sagemono were created for specialized contents, such as tobacco, pipes, writing brush and ink, but inrō were suited for carrying anything small. Consisting of a stack of tiny, nested boxes, inrō were most commonly used to carry identity seals and medicines. The stack of boxes is held together by a cord that runs through cord runners down one side, under the bottom, and up the opposite side. The ends of the cord are secured to a netsuke, a kind of toggle that is passed between the sash and pants and then hooked over the top of the sash to suspend the inrō. An ojime is provided on the cord between the inrō and netsuke to hold the boxes together. This is a bead with a hole through the center through which the cord is passed. It is slid down to the top of the inrō to hold the stack together while the inrō is worn, and slid up next to the netsuke when the boxes need to be unstacked to access their contents. Inrō were made of a variety of materials, including wood, ivory, bone, and lacquer. Lacquer was also used to decorate inro made of other materials.

Inrō, like the ojime and netsuke they were associated with, evolved over time from strictly utilitarian articles into objects of high art and immense craftsmanship.

A good illustration of inro anatomy is here.

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Victoria and Albert: an — er– ado?

Not sure what to call this one, except German, 16th century. About 10 inches tall.


Victoria and Albert: Some photos of the carpet collection

My eyes have been spoiled: looking through a pile of knock-down carpets — not too knock-down, mind you, it was all high 3 figures and some four figures, too — I was searching for a throw rug to cover a hole in the woodwork of my new living room — I was shocked to see how roughly woven it was and how awful the colors were. And this for (roughly) 1-thousand euro rugs! I may have no choice but splurge now.

Thinking about it on my way home I realized that there will never be such a thing as a good carpet photo: it would have to be, a la Borges, a 1:1 job to be any good: there is no medium which allows such a reproduction; and there is no camera that can take such a photo. Well, then, I resolved, I will post these. Fragments they may be, and partially obscured, but surely, a few good fragments have got to be better than nothing.

The permanent display at the V&A features just five Persian carpets (other than the Ardabil). Here are various photos of four of five. All are Persian, 16th century.


Victoria and Albert: porcelain collection: Coalport

Who says that more is not more? Makes an impression, does it not?

Flower-encrusted “Coalbrookdale ware” was made from 1820’s until about 1840’s.

(Porcelain flowers were once the exclusive specialty of Sevres; other porcelain factories – like Meissen – bought them in bulk to incorporate them into their products. They are very hard to come by these days. Keep your eyes peeled: spotting them is harder than trains).


And then God created William Morris

William Morris, b. 1957
Engraved Impala Situla
, 2000, glass, free-blown, wheel-engraved and tooled

“Morris’ technical skills are legendary. His subjects reflect an interest in other civilizations’ representations of the natural world”, says the curator. “Here, a life-like impala becomes a situla, a vessel for the drawing of water”. V&A curator further notes patterns “resemble African textiles”. To me the more significant seem the surfaces which imitate natural textures: fur, flesh, horn. Even if some of the horn, truth be told, feels more like turtle-shell.

The damn thing is good 3 feet tall.

Bloody American, too.  Unbelievable.

PS.  The images on his website are small (even if the prices aren’t).