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Turning Point: Oribe and the Arts of Sixteenth-Century Japan

October 21, 2003–January 11, 2004

Tea Utensils Favored by the Influential Tea Master Sen no Rikyu

The exhibition opens with a group of Chinese and Japanese tea utensils favored by the influential tea master Sen no Rikyu (1522–1591), Furuta Oribe's mentor and predecessor as tea master to the ruling shogunate. An imported Chinese stoneware tea bowl and tea caddy and a bronze flower vase, all dating from the Southern Song dynasty in the thirteenth century, demonstrate Rikyu's preference for simple yet elegant objects, an aesthetic also expressed in the early Japanese tea ceramics produced under his influence.

The finely crafted Chinese wares contrast markedly with the tea ceramics produced in Japan at the end of Rikyu's lifetime at kilns in Mino (modern-day Gifu Prefecture), Furuta Oribe's native province, which reflect the tastes of the emerging aficionados of tea among the newly powerful merchant class in the capital Kyoto, southwest of Mino. Roughly formed, covered with thick white or gray glazes, and decorated with naturalistic designs, these ceramics represent a new technology introduced to Japan by Korean potters. Of special note in the exhibition is a square Gray Shino dish with the design of a wagtail, an Important Cultural Property in the collection of the Tokyo National Museum.

Also featured in this section are two large groups of recently discovered pottery shards: one excavated from a kiln site in Mino, the major center of ceramics production in the Momoyama period, and the other from the former residence of a ceramics merchant in Kyoto, the primary center of ceramics consumption during the period.