73.74 Japanese smoking set (18th-19th century)
Leather, elephant ivory, coral, copper alloy metal (shakudo)
H: 5 1/2 W: 9 1/16 D: 3 1/16
Collection of the Walters Art Museum
This smoking set includes a smoking purse, or tabako-ire, which was designed to hold tobacco, and a long, slender pouch, which held a pipe. This purse is made from leather, and is connected to an ivory and shakudo netsuke with embellished shakudo metal links. The ivory netsuke was used to hold the pouches over Japanese men's obi sashes.
This object was employed as the prototype to design a housing system, which was included in Meg Craft’s IMLS Collections Stewardship Grant. During this time Meg and I noticed localized areas of what appeared to be green corrosion on the shakudo insert of the ivory netsuke. Under microscopic examination I saw that the green was localized to a few recessed areas of the design, and may be the result of the inadequate removal of cleaning products previously used at the Walters. Testing showed that the corrosion was easily removed with a soft brush, and it was determined that the object would benefit from treatment before returning to storage. I proceeded to conduct an examination of the set, which included research about shakudo and traditional Japanese alloys.
Using magnification I carefully reduced bright green, powdery corrosion products. I used a fine, soft sable brush, small cotton swabs, and Microbrushes® with mineral spirits as needed. Cleaning was stopped once the brushes began to pick up the black color of the shakudo. A haze of green color remains in place. The object was returned to storage in its specially designed storage housing and a cautionary note in the treatment report to check for reappearance of the corrosion products.