Posts Tagged ‘Kamakura’

Japanese antiques 4-2-11

April 2, 2011

Today I saw some very interesting pieces.

The first is a set of 12 bowls marked ‘Keicho 18″ or 1613. That puts them into the very beginning of the Edo period, just after the battle at Sekigahara. They are very old but don’t look it. I would be fooled by just looking at them, thinking they are maybe 100 years or so old.

Some points about them.

There are 6 sets of bowls, a larger rice bowl and a smaller soup bowl make up each set. Each set has the same type of pictures although since they are hand-painted the pictures vary within the sub-sets. I only have pictures of 3 sets. The other 3 sets were in front of me but it didn’t seem like I could comfortably unwrap them and start taking pictures. You will notice a difference in color in some of the bowls. That is due to the presence or not of heat, i.e., if hot foods were served in them or not. They just came back from the Kyoto National Museum and are on their way back to the Tokyo National Museum. They are Mr. Kawase’s bowls but he has them on long term loan to museums.   They are designed to not take up much space when stored. The style of the bowls is called yotsuwan. Yotsuwan refers to the fact there are 4 ‘bowls’ in a set, not the lacquer style. Finally, they are done in the Limpa style.  Limpa is a style that I think is associated with Koetsu, long ‘o’.

Next is a piece with an equally impressive pedigree. It is a natsume given by Sen No Rikyu to the Kofukuji temple. It was made by Seiwami if my transliteration is correct.  Very nice lineage. I have to admit I don’t ‘get’ natsume or chaire for that matter.

The last piece is from the Kamakura period. It is used by a priest to “open” the eyes of a new recruit to Buddhism. I wrote down “mikyoho” as the name for it but that doesn’t seem to bring anything up so maybe I am mistaken.

Antiques 7-31-10

August 1, 2010

I first saw a set of Hagi plates from about the beginning of the Edo period. They are interesting in a couple of ways. When they were fired clam shells were used as stilts so they wouldn’t stick to the shelves. The clay shows indentations from the shells and shows the weight of the plate left further impressions on the foot. The quality of the clay is also notable. It has a very nice flash from the kiln. The feet of the 5 plates are different. I don’t think these are a set in the sense they were made to be one set. One completely lacks a foot and the others have significant differences. On the underside of 2 of the plates are kiln scars. It looks like the pieces sagged and touched some other piece in the kiln.

Second is a kyobako from the end of the Kamakura into the Muromachi period, about 700 years ago. This is a box that would have been used for holding prayer scrolls. It is lacquer with mother of pearl inlay.  The design motifs are hyo or hyoou if you really want to transliterate it correctly, and some other figure.  The pattern on the lid isn’t prescribed. It changes with every kyobako. The pictures don’t do justice to the detail in the shell inlay. It is very fine and well done. There is cracking of the lacquer on the lid that is an area focused on by counterfeiters. I have posted pictures before of a table, here, that is a newer vintage that has the cracks, called danmon. The kyobako pictured in this post is genuine and it is easy to see the difference in the mimicked danmon and the real McCoy.  This kyobako has made the rounds of this dealer. He sold it sometime ago and the buyer’s son brought it back after the death of the owner to sell it as the son isn’t a collector.

I ran into some difficulties today and only had time to stay for a short time looking at work.

Japanese antiques 4-4-10

April 5, 2010

Today was very interesting.

The first piece is a Momoyama period Bizen mizusashi. It has an identifiable kamajirushi on the bottom. Kamajirushi are “signatures” used to identify individual potters firing together in a community kiln. There are also kamajirushi that identify a single individual potter but I would think they would be more appropriately called signatures. It also seems to me to be a mis-labeling to use the word kamajirushi. Kama = kiln + shirushi, jirushi = seal or sign because as I understand the ancient kilns kamajirushi were used to identify work in the huge kilns. A number of production houses would band together and put all the work into one kiln as the kilns were 50-100 meters long. The signature would actually not be for the kiln but for the production house, each kiln load would have a number of kamajirushi in each firing.

The next set of photos are from a book which I didn’t get the name of. They are kamajirushi starting in the Kamakura period running up through the Momoyama period. Interesting.

The next piece is a sake cup made in Japan for a Dutch order. It was probably exported and seems to have been modeled on a Seto piece or design.

The next piece is a Momoyama period Oribe Shino incense holder. The design motif is of the warabi plant.  The link is to warabi mochi, not the plant.

The last piece is an Edo period tea ceremony box. It is a medium sized box. This would have held all the utensils for a tea ceremony under the cherry blossoms. The really nice boxes would have had everything including a small kama for heating the tea water. This particular box has a fantastic patina. The weaving of the box inspires respect for the level of craft in Japan.

The writing on the box lid is in old Japanese. The first photo shows “Ekaratsu” or Karatsu with an image, i.e., underglazed iron pigment.

The next photo shows “Oribe Karatsu ko” which means Oribe Karatsu is the type of ceramic ware, ko means, in this case, an incense holder.

The last photo of writing says “nijuni go”. It is a cataloging reference and probably was used by the owner to signify that the piece was #22 in his collection. Nijuni = 22, go = a counter meaning #

Antiques 2-7-10

February 7, 2010

This video shows two processes. The first is tying the furoshiki on a small item. Notice the care taken with the sides. He takes care to fold all excess fabric into the main side folds. The second part is how to tie a “chocho musubi” when the strings come from one side of the box. Take note of if the string passes over or under in each step, if it goes from left to right, etc. The man tying is Mr. Kawase, 88 years old. He is demonstrating the proper way. Old school at its best.

Today I got a lot of pictures.

The first is a Shino yunomi from the end of the Momoyama or beginning of the Edo period. The motif is sasa or susuki. I would have never guessed this cup as from this period as it is much too clean. One hint of the age is the clay. Looking at the bottom the exposed clay is extremely fine-grained. It is easy to find this type of fine grain in porcelain but much more difficult in regular type clays. This yunomi also has almost no iron speckles visible in the body. More modern clay that tries to imitate these older bodies almost always have tell-tale iron impurities. I should say almost no iron speckles because there are a few. This cup also has a few chips, probably new as they are so clean.

The next piece is the star of the show. It is a long-handled water ladle used during Nigatsudo or here. Called a kozuishaku, 香水杓 and here is a picture of another one at the Miho museum. The ladle dates to the Kamakura period, clearly marked Koan, February 13th. 弘安 二月十三日。 Back in the day, maybe even now, women weren’t allowed to enter the main building where the praying took place. The women prayed outside the main building. After the praying and ceremonies  the head water person would use this to pour a little of the water into the hands of the women outside. The reason for the long handle is  to bridge  the inside where they were to  the hands that were outside. A note on age for these. The newer ones have a goose necked shaped pouring spout. The older ones have the shorter spout like this one. The goose necked spout gives better control of water coming out.

I heard an interesting story on the dating of items, especially on items that have the date engraved into them like this ladle. Mr. Kawase’s father was the head of a couple of prestigious committees, including one that decided on what would become an Important Cultural Treasure. He approved an item as original sent over from the Nara National Museum for authentification. The item, sent back to the museum but shortly there after the director came to say the date on the item was impossible as the reign ended one year before the engraved date. The elder Kawase didn’t say it directly to the director but afterward made a remark about youngsters these days not knowing all that much. It is possible to have an item that doesn’t match the reign date since news traveled much slower to the provinces back in the earlier periods and the craftsmen didn’t know the reign had changed. Mr. Kawase made a very good point that forgers wouldn’t make such an elementary mistake as to have a bad date.

The next piece I have written about before here. I think one of the most important qualities in antiques and ceramics is the ability to see beauty. This next piece is perfect for that. The round part on top is a nail cover. The bottom is a base custom-made for burning incense. This is a really beautiful combination, I am not sure it comes through in the pictures.

The picture with the piece of paper shows the concave shape of the bottom. 90% of these covers are fake. Fake ones won’t have this natural curve.

The last piece I have also written about. This shard, very expensive sansai or three color ware, has a set of incense boxes to show off both sides of the shard.

Wakakusakai auction. Kiln update.

October 15, 2009

Just back from a monthly auction I attend. Everyone seemed to be half asleep, like me from my kiln firing.  There were a few exceptional pieces. A Kamakura era piece, a part of the Nara gojunoto that went very cheap. A massive planter, 150 cm. in diameter, went for about 5,000 yen, delivery included. No one wanted it as it is too heavy to move. A couple of pieces I was looking for didn’t show up, a set of Kutani sake cups in particular. The link shows them at the bottom. I hope they show up next month. I wanted to buy a Shigaraki mizusashi that was very beautiful. The starting price was what I decided would be my maximum price. It didn’t sell, I didn’t put a bid in because I still haven’t fully woken up from the marathon firing. There was a white Bizen piece that went for a couple of hundred thousand yen. Winner of the most confusing bid sequence goes to a pile of paper that included a couple of books. The bid started at about 10,000 yen, quickly went to 50,000 yen and suddenly jumped to 200,000 yen. The winner looked as confused as everyone. I don’t know if he planned on paying that much but that is what he bid.

What is it about some of these dealers?

There are snacks available, in the morning a lot of candy, crackers, cookies, etc., in the afternoon breads, apple pie type bread, boxed juice. There are a couple of older dealers that happen to sit directly in front of me that leave, after several trips to the snack area, with their bags buldging with snacks to take home in their new Volvos and Jaguars.

Kiln update.

It is now 280 c.

Antiques 9-12-09

September 13, 2009

This is what a “kura dashi” looks like. An estate sale. This kura held the combined holdings of three generations of collectors. All told there are roughly 500 lots. The earliest is around the Kamakura period. The current head of the family has no interest or use for the items so he took everything to the dealer to be sold. The items will go up for auction at the Wakakusakai auction in three lots, the first this coming Tuesday the 15th. of September. I will be on the sideline hoping there is a tiring out from so much Ming ware and Mishima teabowls going that I will be able to pick up something in my price range. None of this stuff had been touched since Showa 17,  1942. The newspapers show a date of Showa 17. I really like the Ming rooster plate, the bowls that have pictures of the children although they don’t really look like children, those bowls date from around 1720 and some of the Iga and Mishima ware.

I don’t have a lot of details on each piece as I was busy opening boxes, photographing and re-tying the box.

Antiques 5-16-09 and another one that got away.

May 20, 2009

One of the games I play at the auctions I go to is to try to find pieces that are from the Kamakura or Momoyama period.  Here is another one that got away. I am talking about the first pictures in the set below. I did look at this piece a number of times as it and I made our way around the room but decided it was a newer piece although I did place it as from  Tokoname. I just thought it looked far younger than its 700 years. So much for flattery. It went for a price well within my budget although that is probably because most people missed it. The photos from the book is of a typical Kamakura period Tokoname vase. The base is usually more rounded. This one that came up for auction has been cut off  far higher than usual giving it a flatter appearance.

During the last Wakakusa Auction I had a number of opportunities to bid on objects, none of which went smoothly. I have decided to focus on only those pieces that I really like, not on ones that I think I can sell. To see how good I am at picking things that sell well I only have to look at all the unsold things around me. What I very quickly discovered this last time is most of the pieces I like shot right out of my price range.  The first item I bid  on was a Meiji period lamp shade. My wife loves glass and she really wanted it. It went up on the block and the opening bid was 15,000 yen to which I replied “Hai”. The auctioneer then repeated the 15,ooo opener to which I repeated my “Hai” , a little louder, to no avail. The auctioneer said he heard a lot of “Hai’s”, but didn’t acknowledge me. The third call had me bending over the big guys that sit on either side of him and practically yelling my “Hai”, to which he then took the lamp shade off the block saying the minimum bid hadn’t been met. Confused r me. I then realized the opening bid is only a base and the first bid should be higher unless the object is going for what ever it can get as opposed to a predetermined minimum price. The person putting the lot up would be the one to determine the minimum price. This cutting analysis on my part led to the next fiasco.

I next bid on a copper hibachi. The bidding started out too high but quickly dropped down to what I thought was a very reasonable price. Having learned that the first price should be met and increased at least a little I then extended four fingers, 4,000 yen, and in the several nano seconds it took me to raise my hand the bidding had gone from a minimum of 3,000 yen down to “Doesn’t anyone even want to give 1,000 yen for this” just as my fingers came up. So I blurted out 3,000 yen holding out four fingers. Do you know how hard it is to lower a finger? The auctioneer only heard my voice, didn’t see my fingers but the guy on his right did see my fingers and helpfully blurted out 4,000 yen on my behalf. Holding my half eaten banana in one hand, my three and a half fingers still extended in my other I did get it for 3,000 but only after a good laugh from everyone.

I did unsuccessfully try to bid on a couple of other lots but all in all it was a comedy routine.

The five plate set that I saw on my weekly Saturday study session are very interesting.  Shino Oribe. Momoyama period. They are repaired in a way called “yobitsugi” I think the characters are yobi which means to invite or call and tsugi which means  to patch. I am fitting the meanings to match this particular usage. Yobi and tsugi have a number of meanings.

The area being repaired is an area that was damaged as the piece came out of the kiln. So these plates came out of the kiln with kiln damage. They were then repaired with pieces of plates from completely different plates. I find them very beautiful. This way of repairing by using completely unrelated work as an infill shows a very interesting side of the Japanese in my opinion. Maybe it is a common practice in other countries. It reminds me of a discussion I had about the way Japanese make signature seals. The person I was having the discussion with had primarily studied Chinese seals. He found the examples I presented infuriating in their lack of logic. I hadn’t picked out particularly esoteric examples, in fact I would say very run of the mill seals. But to him they completely lacked logic and couldn’t believe they were real.

The difference between this kind of plate and the mukotsuke or more specifically the yoseimuko (see last post) is mukotsuke are deeper, more like bowls. These plates are called “torisala”. Tori for take, sala for plate. They are intended to be used by an individual to hold single portions taken from a main serving dish. They are not a matching set but the term “mukotorisala” doesn’t seem to apply.

Some interesting points.

The feet are robust. As the work gets newer the feet get more delicate. These feet would be difficult to damage.  If I made plates that are this heavy or had this much weight concentrated in the feet I am pretty sure I would be staring at them for the next twenty years because no one would buy them.

The clay is very fine. The clay from the Momoyama era is extremely smooth and has a fine grain. It is difficult to find clay of this quality today.