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This tea-storage jar with four lugs is probably the best work of Nonomura Ninsei (ca. 1574 - 1660). The vessel - known popularly as Fujitsubo, or Wisteria Jar - was made by Nonomura Ninsei, a Kyoto ceramist who was a master of the potter's wheel. Its full, generous shape and graceful, richly colored wisteria in full bloom, which seem almost to be waving on a slight breeze, make the jar a work without peer. It is a masterpiece embodying the quintessence of Ninsei's art. Kyoto ware is quite different from the older, imported, rustic tea-storage jars used untill Ninsei's time, and with its elegance and decorativeness, it clearly reflects the refined culture of the ancient capital of Kyoto.

The wisteria in full bloom have been carefully painted on a warm white glaze in overglaze red, purple, gold, and silver enamels. The fresh green leaves have been rendered so delicately that their ribs are quite plain. Ninsei was well-known for his work on the wheel, and this remarkbly thin jar must have been turned very carefully and evenly on the wheel to produce a vessel of such balanced thinness. There is probably no other tea-storage jar that shows such agreeable harmony of shape and design. Ninsei's name is inscribed on the bottom. This tea-storage jar was handed down in the family of Ninsei's patron, Lord Kyogoku of the Marugame clan in modern Kagawa Prefecture, on Shikoku.

For Master Jinsai February 8 was a day of great rejoicing. That afternoon a work of art he had long desired, a tea-storage jar with an overglaze enamel design of wisteria, was delivered to Him.

Toward the end of 1954, as soon as Master Jinsai learned of the possibility of acquiring the Wisteria Jar, he became determined to buy it. A very famous piece, the jar had been designated a National Treasure by the Japanese government, and its owners would accept nothing less than thirty million yen. Because the organization did not have that much money, Master Jinsai decided to part with his former residence in Tamagawa, which had long been an object of legal dispute. An out-of-court settlement was reached, and part of that money was used to purchase the jar.



Tea-storage jar with an overglaze enamel design of wisteria, by Nonomura Ninsei.

Seventeenth century, Edo Period. Height, 28.8 cm.

National Treasure.


When the Wisteria Jar was delivered, Master Jinsai, seated in a chair, was looking out at the garden. The jar was removed from its wooden box, and he gazed long at it in appreciative silence, joyful to the bottom of his heart. With the world-renowned piece in front of Master Jinsai, the room radiated an aura of tranquility. That night he slept with the Wisteria Jar close by his pillow.



Originally the jar was to have been delivered after the eighth. However, the delivery date was changed at the seller's convenience. Master Jinsai's condition took a serious turn for the worse on the afternoon of the ninth, and he lost consciousness. Had the jar arrived that day, he would not have been able to keep near him the famous piece he had so long desired or to savour its beauty. After his death, his assistants remarked on how the jar had arrived in time and how wonderful it was that he had been able to enjoy it. They felt it was a miracle that the piece had arrived while he was still arrive.





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