Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Lidded Brazier (Te-aburi) with Paulownia and Geometric Design

Edo period (1615–1868)
18th century
Stoneware with overglaze enamels and gold (Ko-Kiyomizu ware)
H. 8 1/4 in. (21 cm); Diam. of mouth. 5 1/8 in. (13 cm); Diam. of foot: 5 5/8 in. (14.3 cm)
Credit Line:
Mary Griggs Burke Collection, Gift of the Mary and Jackson Burke Foundation, 2015
Accession Number:
2015.300.267a, b
Not on view
The term "Kyōyaki" (capital ware) covers a variety of ceramics, including Ko Kiyomizu, produced in and around Kyoto. In Heian times the Kyoto kilns manufactured ash-glazed wares, but their activity came to an end between the Kamakura and the late Muromachi period. Why they ceased operations is not known. One can speculate that the shift of political power to Edo created conditions unfavorable to Kyoto potters. And perhaps the spectacular success of nearby kilns such as Shigaraki, Seto, and Tanba during this time discouraged Kyoto artisans. Moreover, the vogue for Chinese imports among the rich may have contributed to a decline of interest in indigenous products.

In the late sixteenth century, attempts were made to revive the Kyoto ceramics industry. Renewal of activity was perhaps initiated by the arrival of potters from the Mino area.[1] The Kyoto kilns were certainly in operation by 1605, when their wares attracted the attention of the Sakai merchant Kamiya Sōtan (1551–1635). In a diary entry for that year, Sōtan refers to a tea caddy made at a Kyoto kiln.[2] The polychrome enameled wares produced at Kyoto evolved quickly and differed radically from the tea ceramics made at sites such as Mino, Bizen, and Karatsu (cat. nos. 98–105), and they soon rivaled the products of the new Nabeshima and Arita kilns on northern Kyūshū (cat. nos. 128, 129). The Kyūshū wares were also enameled but had porcelain bodies, whereas seventeenth-century Kyōyaki were stonewares.

Although the various ceramics today classified as Kyōyaki include wares from many different kilns, they share one outstanding feature: the potters usually did not use red glaze. The blues, greens, purples, and gold glaze or gold leaf that they applied to the light brown body were covered with a finely crackled clear glaze. The production of Kyōyaki peaked in the mid-seventeenth century; by the 1700s its popularity had been eclipsed by the growing appeal of porcelains. In the late eighteenth century, Kiyomizu, one of the Kyoto kilns, began to keep pace with the new trend by producing enameled porcelain wares. The works of this kiln, situated at the foot of the Kiyomizu temple, achieved great popularity, especially among tourists. The term "Ko Kiyomizu" (Old Kiyomizu) is used to distinguish the earlier stoneware pieces from the later, porcelain pieces produced at the kiln.

This elegant example of Ko Kiyomizu was used as a brazier-or perhaps as an incense burner, in which case it would originally have included an ash container. Its fine-quality clay enabled the potter to create a complex, multifaceted form. The shape may have been inspired by Chinese porcelains or by a metal object, such as a bronze lantern. The lid, neck, body, and base are a series of hexagons, each embellished with geometric designs and floral motifs; six large paulownia leaves ornament the shoulder area.

Especially noteworthy among Ko Kiyomizu is the use of intricately modeled openwork, such as that seen here on the side panels and lid, which allows views into the gilded interior. The elegantly subdued colors are quite different from the brilliant hues found on the more lavishly decorated Hizen ceramics (cat. nos. 128, 129). Design, color, and shape here fuse to create an object of sophistication and refinement, one that embodies the aristocratic taste of Kyoto's courtly patrons of the arts.

[Miyeko Murase 2000, Bridge of Dreams]

[1] Hayashiya Seizō 1985, p. 57·
[2] Kamiya Sōtan nikki, the entry for the fifteenth day, sixth month, tenth year of the Keichō era (1605). See Sadō koten zenshū 1967, vol. 6.
Mary and Jackson Burke Foundation , New York (until 2015; donated to MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Japanese Art from The Mary Griggs Burke Collection," March 30, 2000–June 25, 2000.

Minneapolis Institute of Arts. "Post-renovation opening exhibition: Japanese galleries," April 11, 2006–January 17, 2007.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Celebrating the Arts of Japan: The Mary Griggs Burke Collection," October 20, 2015–January 22, 2017.

Hayashiya Seizō, ed. Kyōyaki. Nihon no tōji (Japanese ceramics), 13. Tokyo: Chūōkōronsha, 1975, no. 49.

Murase, Miyeko. Bridge of Dreams: The Mary Griggs Burke Collection of Japanese Art. Exh. cat. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000, cat. no. 130.
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