Sake Bottle with Four Gentlemen Plants Design

  • Arita kiln, Saga pref.
  • Edo period
  • 17c
  • Arita ware, Imari type, underglaze blue
  • H-20.6 D-12
Catalogue Entry

Two relatively thickly drawn overlapping lines circle the torso of this Imari ware sake bottle. Similarly free, flying brushstrokes were used to depict the so‐called “Four Gentlemen" motif on the shoulders and torso of the bottle. Shards of this type of ware have been excavated from the Hizen Hyakken kiln (present‐day Yamauchi‐cho, Kishima‐gun, Saga prefecture). The so‐called “four gentlemen flowers" are plum, chrysanthemum, orchid, and bamboo. Among all plants and flowers, these four are considered to be lofty in character, and hence have been likened to the loftiness of gentlemen. They are a popular theme in East Asian painting. This jar was fired at a high temperature, and its resulting slight tilt is immediately appealing, while the flowers and plants drawn in vivid, high quality cobalt pigments combine with the lovely white porcelain body clay to create an elegant wine bottle.