Old Bizen Sake Bottle in Shape of a Wild Duck

Edo Period, early 17th Century

Inv. Nr. #21.031
Date Edo period (1603-1868), early 17th C.
Material Ash glazed stoneware
Dimensions H 20,5 x Diam. 12,0 cm

Comes with fitted wooden box, certified, signed and sealed by art historian Katsura Matasaburō (1901-1986).

Rare, early Edo period, old Bizen sake bottle in shape of a wild duck (kamo tokkuri). Using the popular shape of a double gourd, this twisted variation with two dents at the bulbous neck, is abstractly resembling a wild duck, known from the iconographical canon of ink paintings: The wild duck lifts its head to the sky while probably crying for its flock. 


While there are many gourd-shaped sake bottles known and documented today, the wild duck-shaped type seems to be less prominently presented in public collections. The Freer Gallery of Art in Washington holds a younger, early 19th-century example by Edo period potter Terami Enkichi (?1838). However, the here presented work exemplifies that this type of tokkuri was at least known from as early as the 17th century a period in Bizen pottery, known for its free creativity and open-minded spirit to experiment with new types of shapes and forms.


The bottle bears a kiln mark on the flat base which can also be found on older works from the Momoyama period. This fact and the extraordinary quality of the shape and glaze speaks for a creation of this bottle in one of the major pottery production sites of Bizen. On a finely textured, reddish-brown clay, the surface shows many yellow spots, called "sesame" (goma), and some parts of molten ash glaze, running downwards in amber-colored streams and eventually gathering in crystallized glaze drops (bidoro). There are also linear traces of rice straw stems, which are adding a graphic element to the lively and rich ash glaze.


The tokkuri comes in a fitted wooden box with a certifying inscription by art historian and ceramic specialist Katsura Matasaburō (1901-1986), dating this piece to the early Edo period.