The early use of red iron oxide is first found on pottery and in the colouration of lacquer from as long ago as the Jomon period, since when it has been used decoratively in association with concepts of health and cleanliness. Mercuric and lead oxides were also used. It is the colour most associated with Shinto, and is often painted on the torii arches in shrines. White lead oxide was also used as in this example. The Gishi Wajin den of the 3rd century Chinese Wei Chronicle tells that all Japanese irrespective of age tattooed their bodies, and the use of black and red body decoration on haniwa suggests that the practice could have been widespread in the 6th century. Mercuric oxide, which is a brighter red, was used in considerable amounts in some kofun burial chambers where it possibly had a purification function.
The result of Oxford Authentication Ltd. thermoluminescence test no. N113g72 is consistent with the dating of this lot.