In the tea ceremony, this type of ewer (suichū) is used to replenish the water jar, which holds water for rinsing tea bowls and filling the iron kettle. The copper‑green glaze and dark brown graphic design are characteristic features of Oribe ware. Depicted on the lower half of the vessel is a curtain of the type used to surround the picnic area selected for cherry blossom viewings. Cherry blossoms are painted in iron brown underglaze and white clay slip.
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Title:Ewer (Suichū) with Cherry Blossoms and Picnic Curtain
Period:Momoyama (1573–1615) or Edo (1615–1868) period
Date:early 17th century
Medium:Stoneware with iron underglaze and copper-green glaze (Mino ware, Narumi Oribe type)
Dimensions:H. (including handle) 8 1/8 in. (20.7 cm)
Credit Line:Mary Griggs Burke Collection, Gift of the Mary and Jackson Burke Foundation, 2015
The Mino kilns, which began production of Seto Guro (cat. no. 98) in the 1570s, produced Shino wares (cat. nos. 100, 101) in the 1580s, then shifted to Oribe about 1600. During these thirty-odd years, Mino potters created totally new types of wares in quick succession. The debut of Oribe was the result of several historical events. Hideyoshi's forces invaded Korea in 1592 and 1593, forcing captured Korean potters to resettle in northern Kyūshū. There, the foreign artisans introduced the multichambered step kiln, the waridake (split bamboo). This coincided with the increasing demand for Shino ware, then the major product of the Mino kilns. In turn, demand for Shino inspired the development of the even more efficient climbing kiln, the noborigama. Paradoxically, the new technology destroyed the unique beauty of Shino, and Oribe was developed to take advantage of the new kilns.
The evolution of Oribe wares is also intimately connected with the tea master and tastemaker Furuta Oribe (1544–1615). Although no documentary proof for the theory exists, Oribe, who was a native of the Mino region, is said to have personally guided the Mino potters in their pioneering work. A samurai as well as a tea master, Oribe was stationed briefly in the castle at Nagoya in northern Kyūshū during Hideyoshi's Korean campaign, and he may have had an opportunity to learn about the step kiln at that time. At a later date he may also have helped Katō Kagenobu (d. 1632), the leading potter at Mino, to establish the kiln in that area. The new kiln permitted earlier maturity of glazes under controlled conditions, as well as the implementation of complex designs and a range of colors to decorate the wares.
The introduction of the step kiln coincided with a shift in the hierarchy of tea masters that occurred in 1591, when Hideyoshi ordered Sen Rikyū to commit seppuku. After Rikyū's death, Oribe assumed his mantle as the foremost tea master of Japan. As the scion of a warrior family and the product of the swiftly changing political landscape of the Momoyama period, Oribe had an aesthetic that was diametrically opposed to that of Rikyū. Whereas the older master had prescribed subdued simplicity and refined artlessness, Oribe called for forceful, extroverted beauty. The Oribe wares produced at the Mino kilns vividly reflect this change.
Beginning in the last few years of the sixteenth century, "new" and "misshapen" wares are noted in chanoyu records. These descriptions evoke features characteristically associated with Oribe wares, but the name "Oribe" does not begin to appear in the literature of tea before 1724. Many Oribe pieces are decorated with sensuous, brilliant glazes in black, iridescent green, and brown, further enriched by underglaze drawings in iron oxide. The distinctive copper-green glaze was new in Japanese pottery. But innovation was not limited to new glazes. Oribe kaiseki wares in particular show an unprecented diversity of shape, design, and size, and they are often intentionally distorted.
This ewer is typical of Oribe wares dating to the beginning of the seventeenth century, when production was at its height. Although originally intended for pouring soup during the kaiseki, such vessels were also used as mizusashi (water jars) for chanoyu, as the wide opening and tall handle were ideally suited to this function. The vessel belongs to a special category known as Narumi Oribe, for which two types of clay—different in color but equal in strength—are used. The decorated lower body was made of red clay; the handle and upper body, both covered in green glaze, were made separately in white clay. The latter material is best suited to bring out the brilliance of the green glaze, while the former shows through the clear glaze in a subtle shade of salmon pink, creating a striking color contrast previously unknown in Japanese pottery. The designs were executed with great freedom, painted in white slip and then outlined in iron oxide.
As in many other Oribe wares, the decoration of this ewer combines naturalistic and geometric designs: plum flowers and a triangular, curtain-like motif. Oribe potters freely adopted shapes and designs from other art forms. Designs on Oribe vessels bear a striking affinity to those on contemporary Japanese textiles, and a relationship between them is not unlikely. The most active Mino kilns, those which produced the finest Shino and Oribe wares, were located in areas once inhabited by textile designers and dyers; moreover, the name "Narumi" may refer to a village in the nearby Nagoya area, which was famous for its high-quality tie-dyed textiles. Conceivably, artisans who supplied designs for textile makers may also have worked as decorators of pottery. The shape of this ewer, new in Japanese ceramics, was modeled after that of a wood or lacquered-wood vessel. The small, round protrusions at the base of the handle, while not functional, imitate the nailheads on the wood model.
[Miyeko Murase 2000, Bridge of Dreams]
 Katō Hajime 1961, p. 2.  The name "Oribe" first appears in the Kaiki, a chronicle of the life of Konoe Iehiro (1667–1736). See Sadō koten zenshū 1967, vol. 5, entry for the eighteenth day, tenth month, ninth year of the Kyōhō era (1724).  Fujioka Ryōichi 1970, p. 81; and Kakudo 1972, p. 74·
Mary and Jackson Burke Foundation , New York (until 2015; donated to MMA)
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