A Lidded Lacquer Bowl from Aizu: Late Edo Period
early to mid nineteenth century
4" x 3 1/2" diameter, 10 cm x 19 cm diameter
This gem of a lidded, lacquer bowl dates to the late Edo Period (1603-1868) and it was made in an area known Aizu, in Fukushima Prefecture, and during the Edo Period Aizu became a well-known center of lacquer production.
It was the planting of lacquer trees promoted by a powerful
local family during the Muromachi period (1392-1573) that led to the
making of Aizu lacquer ware. Then, when Gamo Ujistao who hailed from present-day Shiga Prefecture arrived to head the Aizu
clan in the Momoyama period (1573-1600), he brought skilled lacquerers
to this northern region from Shiga. Their skills were disseminated and
as a result of fostering the development of techniques in crafts using
lacquer, Aizu soon became a production center for all kinds of lacquer
Later, specialist maki-e decorators were brought in from Kyoto and the steady development of lacquer craft here resulted in special permission to export Aizu lacquer ware being granted by the Shogunate in the middle of the Edo period (1600-1868). Production suffered around the unsettled period of the Meiji Restoration in 1868 but work soon returned to normal and heralded a golden age.
This footed, lidded bowl is not perfect. Some lacquerware can be just flawless. By comparison to ultra-fine examples, this bowl rustic. For example, note some smudged, repaired gold areas on the accompanying photos and the lids that do not fit exactly onto the bowl--that kind of thing. But this bowl is loaded with various motifs and wonderful colors.
Seen are plum blossoms, bamboo, and pine trees, or shochikubai. Shochikubai is a classic, auspicious design motif. The plum is the first bloom to burst forth from the winter's ice and is symbol of strength, the bamboo bends but does not break so it is a symbol of resilience, and the pine, of course conveys a wish for longevity. Also, pine needles fall in pairs, and thus they are a motif often used at weddings.
Also to be seen are what appears to be tachibana a stylized citrus, arrows, and diamonds. The hand painted decoration on this bowl is not feudal lord-quality work, but its rustic appeal is really delightful and its variety of markings and colors--red, green gold, brown--is rich.
Just gorgeous. And recommended.