Every month a member of our Society will show one of his or her favourite Japanese artworks. This is a beautiful and complete pipe-case with tobacco pouch, from the collection of our members Koosanne and Arie Hartman.
Kiseruzutsu, ivory, L 24,2 cm. Tabako-ire, kinkaragawa, calfskin, H 8,1 c., B 11,8 cm. 19th century.
About 17 years ago we bought our first kiseruzutsu (pipe-case) and tabako-ire (pouch for storing tobacco). From then on we wanted to know more about the different kinds of kiseruzutsu, tabako-ire and tonkotsu (a box made of solid material for storing tobacco). We were especially curious about the materials used and how the Japanese sourced them.
In 2006, Alain Ducros published Promenade Dans L’Art Japonais, a two-volume book, one volume dedicated to Netsuke and the other to Inro and tobacco and smoking articles. That last one was very welcome to us! It had a comprehensive account about the materials that were used for the tabako-ire.
Ducros wrote that the Japanese were fond of exotic imported leather to be used for the fabrication of tabako-ire. They had horse skin from Persia, but the most famous of all was Dutch leather made from calfskin. “This calfskin leather was covered with a silver or tin foil fixed with parchment glue and then varnished; this varnish turns yellowish, giving the impression that it was gilded; that is why it was called kinkarakawa, the relief pattern was pressed into the leather with the use of a mold.” (p.257 Vol.2). The relief patterns were chosen from tapestries and paintings. In the Netherlands we call this leather “goudleer” and it was often used as wallpaper.
During the Meiji period the Japanese tried to copy this Dutch leather, but they did not know that in the fabrication of “goudleer” silver foil was used; the Japanese made use of gold foil, which gave a different radiation.
We found this tabako-ire of kinkaragawa on a special auction in Stuttgard in 2007. Attached was an exquisitely carved ivory kiseruzutsu decorated with birds, butterflies, chrysanthemum, hibiscus and peonies (see picture). When we opened the flap of the tabako-ire and turned it around we saw a scenery with a Putti and flowers on the backside. Looking for special kiseruzutsu , tabako-ire and tonkotsu is a pleasure at every auction: and sometimes we are lucky!