Raku-ware carries with it a very naturalistic aura; with its implements made of raw clay, its use of fire water and air to shape and harden these implements, and with its myriad processes that produce smooth glossy surfaces—like those often found in nature. In fact, if you look more deeply into Raku, you find that many of the shapes and motifs are also inspired by nature. For example, this masterfully crafted mizusashi (fresh water pot) takes its inspiration from the shape of one of the most important food crops in ancient Japan, the humble sato-imo (sweet potato). Though fashioned over 200 years ago, this piece still displays a beautiful patina and is one of the more striking pieces you will find by this artist—the 9th generation Raku potter known as Ryônyû (1756 – 1834).
Born the second son of Raku VII, Chônyû (1714 – 1770), Ryônyû took over the title of Kichizaemon (head Raku potter) at the very young age of 14 after his elder brother fell ill only several years after assuming the title. Ryônyû is known as an innovative potter within the Raku line, especially for his use of a scraping technique that produced bold lines and demarcations on the surface of the hand-molded Raku implements (see images above). He is also known to have been a stabilizing force for the Raku lineage after several tragedies befell the household including the death of his older brother Tokunyû at a young age and later a fire that would destroy all of the family’s works since the time of Chojiro. He forged strong alliances with the Senke schools and was known to have been especially close with Sotsutakusai, the 8th generation head of the Omotesenke. Ryônyû is known to have used three main stamps to sign his creations, the first, (ages 15-33) is known as ‘Hizen-in’ (the pre-fire seal); the second (ages 34-56) was the middle period seal ‘Naka-in’; and finally his retirement seal ‘Inkyo-in’ (ages 57-79). The seal on the vessel above is from the middle period placing the year of production between 1784 and 1812.
In excellent antique condition this piece is 6.7 inches (17 cm) in diameter and stands 6.8 inches (17.2 cm) tall. It bears Raku Kichizaemon Ryônyû’s stamp clearly impressed upon the base and comes in a certification box signed under the lid by the 14th Iemoto (head tea master) of Omotesenke, Jimyosai. In addition, the side of the box has the certification of the 15th Raku Kichizaemon, Jikinyū (detailed examples of all signatures and seals available upon request). Purchased from a tea-ware shop in Kyoto, this piece is reported to have been formerly owned by a tea sensei of the Omote-senke school.