Jar for Tea Leaves with the Moon and Plum Blossoms
Tea leaf jars are for storing tea leaves before they are ground into maccha powder. Large jars with glazed surfaces and four bow-like handles around the neck were made in China and then exported to Japan. As the tea ceremony became popular, these jars were used for storing tea leaves and they eventually came to be produced in Japan too. They sat in the tea room alongside other important implements like tea bowls and kettles.
Nonomura Ninsei was a master potter who operated a kiln close to Ninnaji temple in Kyoto. He is known as the man who perfected 'kyo-yaki,' a type of pottery from Kyoto that was decorated with vivid coloring and picturesque brushwork. Before then, tea leaf jars had been quite plain with minimal coloring or designs, so Ninsei is said to be the first potter to decorate the jars in this way. Many multicolored tea leaf jars from Ninsei's studio are still with us today.
This jar features a blooming plum tree and the moon depicted in gold, silver, red, and green against a white ground. The red and silver flowers probably represent red and white plum blossoms. The plum tree and silvery moon are partly obscured by a golden haze that sweeps the surface. Ninsei is said to have reflected deeply about the usage of gold and silver coloring. The results of these reflections are on clear display in this work. In his attempts to transfer flat designs onto the difficult, spherical canvas of the tea leaf jar, Ninsei used coloring to full effect. In doing so, he succeeded in perfecting a new aesthetic world.