Old Shigaraki Jar

Edo Period, 17th Century

Inv. Nr. #18.017
Date Edo period (1603-1868), 17th c.
Material Ash glazed stoneware
Dimensions H 27,8 cm

Fantastic early Edo-period storage jar. With its sharp-angled shoulders and almost vertical sides this jar is a typical "rice cracker jar" (senbei tsubo). It is from the Shigaraki region, a mountainous area in today's Shiga Prefecture, southeast of Kyoto. The region gained large popularity due to Kyoto's tea masters in the 16th century. Prior to their promotion, Shigaraki kilns produced simple everyday ware for the local people and institutions.

In this piece, one still sees the spectacular surface effects of these earlier periods, such as firing spots, stone inclusions, natural ash glaze dripping, cracks in the surface and melted minerals or 'stone flowering' throughout the vessel. Typical for the Shigaraki ceramic is especially the strong contrast between the ash glazed parts and the unglazed areas, which illustrate the essence of Shigaraki pottery's beauty: A shiny green ash glaze on a glowing orange-red clay. The effect on this jar has been spectacular not only with its molten green glaze flowing down the front of the jar (the side that faced the fire) but also with its strong encrustations on the lower front.

 

The senbei tsubo's shape with its bulging shoulders and the rounded bottom is known from older Momoyama pieces from the Tanba and Shigaraki pottery. However, one can detect also some characteristics in this jar, which showcases some new developments that are caused by the changing taste of the fast growing 17th-century urban society. The mouth of the pot is left rough and was not smoothened. Also, there are two deformations on the front of the jar, which are not a result of firing but was given to the soft clay. Intentionally deformed or distorted pots have survived in some quantity from Tanba as well and must have been very popular in the early Edo period.