Two Mukozuke Dishes
Saga and Nagasaki Prefectures
Momoyama to Edo period, late 16th-early 17th century
Stoneware painted with underglaze iron brown (Karatsu ware)
The two mukozuke containers were used to serve
the kaiseki meal, part of the formal tea ceremony. The form, decoration, and function
of these dishes are quintessentially "Japanese." However, their aesthetic
sensibility and method of production combine influences that were originally Korean.
When Japan invaded Korea in the 1590s, Korean potters were brought back to Karatsu
where they introduced a multichambered climbing kiln and the kick-wheel. The unaffected
rusticity of the Korean wares were highly appreciated by Japanese tea masters and
became an important component of Japan's ritualized tea ceremony.
Cycles of Artistic Interaction
Japan's relationship to the world has been characterized by cycles of insularity
alternating with intense and even aggressive interaction. Its adaptation of foreign
cultures sometimes occurred through peaceful association and, more rarely, through
military and forcible appropriation. For example, this female clay sculpture from
Horyuji temple illustrates the absorption of Chinese prototypes in eighth-century
Japanese art. Conversely, the important stoneware traditions of Kyushu during the
Momoyama and early Edo periods, as seen in these Karatsu mukozuke dishes, owe much
to Japan's imperialist aspirations: the earliest potters were Koreans captured and
brought back to Japan following Japan's invasion of Korea in the 1590s.