Important Cultural PropertyTea urn decorated with picture of plum trees in the moonlight, in overglaze enamels

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  • Nonomura Ninsei
  • 1 piece
  • H29.9 aperture D10.6 bottom D11.4
  • Edo period/17th century
  • Tokyo National Museum
  • G-40

Nonomura Ninsei is well known in the history of early modern Japanese pottery as a master of Omuroyaki, the kiln of which used to be located in front of Ninnaji Temple in Omuro, Kyoto. While the exact time when Omuroyaki began is still unknown, it is estimated to be around 1647. Ninsei's pottery with on-glaze decoration is known to have been completed by 1656 or 1657. Although Ninsei's common name was Seiemon, he used the name Ninsei since he was granted the seal of "Ninsei" from Ninnaji Temple and affixed it to his works.
The core part of Ninsei's Omuroyaki is tea-related pottery, among which chatsubo (a jar where tea leaves were stored) jars are highly esteemed not only for their grand scale, but also for his high-quality on-glaze decoration. A total of ten chatsubo jars with on-glaze decoration currently exist including this one with a moon and plum motif. There is also one with a wisteria motif, two with a Mt. Yoshino motif, one with a poppy motif, one with a dragon motif, one with a bird motif, one with a motif of a carp going upstream, one with a mountain and pine tree motif and one with a mountain temple motif. Among these chatsubo jars, this one with a moon and plum motif and the one with a wisteria motif are of particular excellence.
This jar has a tight mouth with a nicely treated rim (tamabuchi) and four lug handles around the neck. A smooth semi-transparent whitish glaze covers the jar from the mouth to near the bottom of the body, on which plum blossoms blooming under the full moon are depicted in gold, silver, red and green. Such representation resembles the generous style of the Kano school.
The area from the lower part of the body to the flat bottom is unglazed and its earthen surface shows reddish burns. A large, oval-shaped seal of "Ninsei" is affixed on the left center of the bottom. This was purchased by the Tokyo National Museum in 1878 and the former designation as a national treasure was changed to an important cultural property in 1949.