Born in Tokyo, Itcho became the last master of the Koami school, a family of lacquer artists who had enjoyed high social standing in the service of the shogunate ever since the fifteenth century. (For a 1633 box by Koami Choju see lot ___). The Koami family was the oldest and most prestigious of lacquer families and they prided themselves on fine craftsmanship.
Itcho was appointed a court artist in 1896 and around this time he spent ten years making a gold lacquer chest in traditional daimyo style with a lavish all-over pattern of chrysanthemums for the imperial household. (For his chest in the Imperial Household Collection see Nakagawa Chizaki, Meiji no kogei, Nihon no bijutsu, no. 41, [Shibundo, 1969], pl. 20). In 1897 he became a professor at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts (the present Tokyo University of Arts and Music), established only a decade earlier with a department of lacquer art. His two sons, Ikko (1852-1926) and Buncho (1861-1909), both excellent lacquerers, worked with him. He was an essentially conservative artisan who worked in the traditional maki-e style. It is clear from this chest with design of butterflies, one of his last great masterpieces, that he could also create designs that are surprisingly modern in their simplicity and abstraction.
For examples of his work in the Tokyo National Museum, the Ishikawa Prefectural Museum and the MOA Museum see Arakawa Hirokazu, Kindai Nihon no shikkogei (Japanese lacquer art of recent times) (Kyoto: Kyoto Shoin, 1985), pls. 42-44.