Kenzan Mukozuke in Lily Shape

  • Narutaki, Kyoto
  • Edo period
  • 18th century
  • Kenzan ware, underglaze iron decoration
  • H-5.2 D-15.8
    Formerly in the collection of Masuda Don'no
Catalogue Entry

Set of 5 dishes
Edo period, 18th century
Kenzan ware, underglaze iron decoration
Height, 5.2cm; mouth diameter, 15.8cm;
base diameter, 5.8cm

These mold-cast mukozuke dishes still show traces of cloth impressions on the exterior surface of the dishes which is thought to indicate where cloths were used to allow ease of removal from their molds. Underglaze iron has been used to outline the flower petals and to indicate their stamens and pistils. A transparent glaze has been applied all over, except for the foot exterior which has been left unglazed.

The extremely common Kenzan ware method of white-slip application was completely avoided on these dishes. Among the shards excavated at the Narutaki kiln site and now in the collection of Hozoji, Kyoto, there is a shard of the mouth rim of a mukozuke dish of almost exactly the same shape. This indicates that this shape of dish was being created as early as the Narutaki kiln period, and this shard provides an important clue to the dating of these dishes.

4 of the 5 dishes are inscribed "Kenzan" in underglaze iron, and as all of these inscriptions are in almost exactly the same calligraphy style, it can be suggested that the inscriptions were all brushed by the same hand. The inscription is in the regular form with very little abbreviation, and this is thought to indicate the older form of Kenzan ware inscriptions. YO

Lily-shaped Mukozuke Dishes (Set of 5)

Lily-shaped Mukozuke Dishes (Set of 5)
Formerly in the collection of Masuda Don'o

Forming pieces in the shape of lily flowers is a method that can also be seen in Ninsei's work (Nezu Museum, Tokyo; Nomura Art Museum, Kyoto).
The effect is similar to E-Garatsu ceramics in its use of a rather coarse clay. The overlapping petals give the work a three-dimensional feel. Kenzan has finished these mukozuke by using underglaze iron, which produces brown or blackish-brown hues, to outline the petals and add the stamens. (Decoration in underglaze iron is known as sabi-e.) The result is a powerful presence. The surface of these pieces has traces of the texture applied to make it easier to remove them from the mold. The Kenzan signatures on four of the five pieces are written in a very similar, clean style that clearly indicates mindfulness of their calligraphic nature.
Several shards that correspond to these mukozuke have been discovered among the artifacts from the Narutaki kiln site. These works, which measured up to Masuda Don'o's standards, exemplify Kenzan's Narutaki period.