storage jar

 
Nationality
Japanese
Creation date
Period
Muromachi
Materials
stoneware with glaze
Dimensions
17-3/4 x 15-5/8 (diam.) in.
Credit line
Martha Delzell Memorial Fund
Accession number
81.378
Collection
Currently On View In
Valeria J. Medveckis Gallery - K308

A high temperature in the kiln vitrified the stoneware clay and melted and fused ash from the burning wood to form a "natural glaze" on this jar. The damaged lip would have limited its usefulness as a storage jar, but it has survived until now, cared for by those who have been attracted to its bold form and rugged surface. In a sense, this "broken" jar has been "repaired" as an art object, its imperfections adding to a new sense of beauty.

Purchased by the Indianapolis Museum of Art in 1981.
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Indianapolis Museum of Art: Highlights of the Collection (2005)

At some time during its life, the mouth and neck of this common storage jar were cracked and broken, yet it was saved and treasured by someone with a discerning eye who appreciated its rough-hewn strength and beauty. The uneven, pitted surface and robust shape of this magnificent but practical container recall the natural variations in form and color of granite. Typical of Shigaraki ware, the clay is mixed with pebbles and fragments of stone. The full shoulders taper decisively in an uneven profile, because the potter quickly patted down the clay coils used to form it. During firing, ashes from the burning wood landed on the vessel's surface and were liquefied by the high temperature, forming a natural glaze upon cooling. The variation in color resulted from the different amounts of iron naturally occurring in the ashes.

The jar's eloquence belies its simplicity. The physical damage speaks of the transience of life, even as it exudes an air of antiquity. And despite its uneven surface and shape, the jar evokes a sense of stability. Such contrasts exemplify the Zen Buddhist tenet of nonduality, of the innate wholeness of all things. In the latter 16th century, tea masters began to favor rugged, unpretentious vessels like this one as water jars in the ritual of the tea ceremony.

Old Shigaraki pots are fascinating. . . . [I]n these we see . . . the sky and fields of the middle ages.
-Filmmaker Akira Kurosawa, 1910-1998