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Teabowl with Moonflower (Yūgao) and Poem

Ogata Kenzan Japanese

Not on view

Combining poetry, painting, calligraphy, and pottery, Ogata Kenzan achieved an innovative style with a potent visual effect. Against a black background that suggests a nocturnal scene, white flowers and deep green leaves glisten. As the name “moonflower” suggests, these blossoms open only briefly at night. The flower refers to the mysterious Lady Yūgao, featured in Chapter 4, “The Lady of the Evening Faces” (Yūgao), and symbolizes her fleeting life, cut short at the hands of Lady Rokujō’s jealous spirit. The waka inscribed on the teabowl reads:

Yorite dani
Tsuyu no hikari ya
Ika ni tomo
Omoi mo wakanu
Hana no yūgao

Upon approaching
In the glistening dew;
How unexpected,
The blossoming
Of the evening face.
—Translation by Richard Wilson

Teabowl with Moonflower (Yūgao) and Poem, Ogata Kenzan (Japanese, 1663–1743), Stoneware with polychrome overglaze enamels, Japan

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