Wine Ewer with Design of Chrysanthemums and Paulownia Crests in Alternating Fields

Period: Momoyama period (1573–1615)

Date: ca. 1596

Culture: Japan

Medium: Lacquered wood with sprinkled gold (makie) decoration in Kōdaiji style

Dimensions: H. (incl. handle) 10 in. (25.4 cm); Diam. 7 in. (17.8 cm); W. (including spout) 10 1/8 in. (25.7 cm)

Classification: Lacquer

Credit Line: Purchase, Gift of Mrs. Russell Sage, by exchange, 1980

Accession Number: 1980.6


This lacquered sake container (choshi) exemplifies the luxurious utensils, paintings, and military accoutrements that filled the grand residences of the Momoyama period. Indeed, this vessel may have been used by the powerful and flamboyant general Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536–1598), who unified Japan in the 1590s. Typical of Kodaiji-style lacquers, the container is exquisitely made but relatively simple, in contrast with other more classic lacquer items made by the same workshop.

The strong design of this container consists of two patterns diagonally bisected by zigzag lines; one design is set against a sprinkled gold ground and the other is on solid black. The stunning contrast of the two patterns—totally different in color, rhythm, and motif—was much favored around 1600 by artists working not only in lacquer but also in ceramics and textiles.