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Five-case Seal Caddy (inrō)




Edo period (1615-1868)


Five-case Seal Caddy (inrō)


About 1800-1850


Maki-e lacquer on wood, gold, silver and copper powder


9.2 x 4.8 x 2.4 cm


Geraldine C. Chisholm Bequest, inv. 1982.Ee.18


Archeology and World Cultures

One side of this inrō features a window blind pulled down, while the other side shows a window blind two-thirds rolled up; fireflies (hotaru) appear on both sides. During the Edo period, catching fireflies was considered an elegant pastime. Here, however, their depiction probably alludes to the popular legend of Princess Hotaru. According to the legend, Princess Hotaru, the daughter of the king of the fireflies, declared that she would marry only the suitor who could bring her a flash of fire. After many died in the attempt, Himaro, the prince of the fireflies, came to her with his body made of fire, winning her heart. The firefly is often employed in Japanese literature as a metaphor for passionate love.

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