Sumi painting and calligraphy on ceramic. This chawan is light in the hand and contrasts beautifully with a dark rich bowl of matcha. While the poems of many of Rengetsu’s ceramic pieces are etched in clay, this piece is unique in that the calligraphy is applied with sumi and brush. The poem is done in the waka style and reads, “Echoing through the world, tidings on the wind… I hear them, whispering in the lone pine, standing beside my hut.”
Rengetsu is a unique and celebrated figure from Japanese 19th century history. Despite her reported great beauty and talent for the arts, she faced many personal tragedies in her life including being born an illegitimate child, the death of two husbands and all of her four children, and times of destitute poverty filled with hopelessness and despair. Scholars of her work believe these hardships allowed Rengetsu an unparalleled depth of humility and compassion, evident in the fine lines and heartfelt prose of so many of her art pieces.