Although the bare facts of Tsuda Sokan's life were already known, two documents accompanying this box, an anonymous certificate (1967) and a biography by his son Tsuda Fukuya (1966), throw further light on the details of his career. He was the third son of Tsuda Sakyo, a samurai of the Owari fief, and worked for the Kyoto art dealer Ikeda Seisuke, making ceramic pieces and studying maki-e as a sideline. He also learned the technique of shell inlay from Shimizu Shuzan and combined the three different media in a revival of the style of Ogawa Haritsu (Ritsuo, 1663-1747). He used the names Sokan, Jirakusai and Onkodo1. His son's biography adds that he was born in 1868, studied pharmacology and chemistry, making ceramics as a hobby, and moved to Kyoto in 1881. After the closure of Ikeda's business he received a week's tuition in maki-e from Harui Komin, a Kyoto lacquerer in the classical and other styles, who also worked for Ikeda and made the famous Prince of Wales presentation cabinet now in the Khalili collection2. Although Ikeda is known to have ceased trading in 1912, Fukuya claims that Sokan started to work independently in 1902, while the certificate maintains that he studied with Komin in Suma, where Komin moved after 1912; in any event Sokan seems to have been largely self-taught. He made copies of works by Korin, Haritsu, Hanzan, Chohei and others, and from about the age of fifty he combined maki-e with ceramics, carved red lacquer, gold, silver, enamels, aogai shell in Somada style and other materials. In ceramics his models were Kenzan, Hanzan, Mokubei and others. He died in 1934. The use of the Kan seal associated with Ogawa Haritsu is a reminder that the revival of the Ritsuo style, initiated in the 1840s, continued well into the present century3. It is likely that there is some connection between this Tsuda and Tsuda Noritake, the author of a 1907 manuscript on lacquer and lacquerers, now extant only in an English translation. The 'Tsuda manuscript' acknowledges as the source of much of its information Ito Teibun (also called Kenkoku), another imitator of Haritsu.
1 Takao Yo, Kinsei maki-eshi meikan [A list of Edo and Meiji period maki-e artists], Rokusho 19 (1996), 108; E.A. Wrangham, The Index of Inro Artists, (Harehope, Northumberland, 1995), 23 (s.v. "TM") and 270
2 Goke, T., Hutt, J. and Wrangham, E.A., Meiji no Takara, Treasures of Imperial Japan, Lacquer, (London, 1995), cat. no. 231
3 Takeuchi Kyuichi, 'Ritsuo seisaku no kokeisha [The inheritors of the Ritsuo style]', Shoga kotto zasshi [Painting and antiques magazine] (Apr. 1916), 25-9; Honolulu Academy of Arts, Shadows and Reflections: Japanese Lacquer Art from the Collection of Edmund J. Lewis, (Hong Kong, 1996), cat. no. 27, a writing-box in Ritsuo style sealed by Kenkoku and Tenrokudo Ken'ya