Japanese and Chinese antiques and art from B & C
High Relief Antique Japanese Iron Tetsubin with Crab

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All Items: Archives:Regional Art:Asian:Japanese: Pre 1900: item # 1095458

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B & C   Antiques
P. O. Box 291
Derby, CT 06418

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High Relief Antique Japanese Iron Tetsubin with Crab

This heavy Japanese “ornamental” tetsubin (iron kettle) is strongly cast and wonderfully decorated in high relief with an aquatic motif. Meiji period, ca.1900. The iron body bears the four-character seal mark of “Ueda Zo” cast in relief beneath the spout -- a mark which appears only on tetsubin of the highest quality. The patinated bronze lid bears the engraved shop name signature “Ryubundo zo,” a famous Japanese family of tetsubin makers and bronze workers from Kyoto.

The “front side” features a goose cast in high relief flying beneath a full moon above aquatic plants cast in lower relief. On the “back side,” there is a crawling crab cast in very high relief with lower relief cast sea plants in the background. The quality of the casting is excellent. It is bold and strongly rendered, exceeding half an inch (13 mm) in depth for the crab. The top edge and upper part of the body have been crafted with deep random hollows and depressions. This reflects “intentional damage” cast specifically to add the appearance of great age and antiquity to the tetsubin. This is one of the best examples of cast intentional damage we have ever seen in a tetsubin.

Tetsubin are cast iron water kettles which were popular in Japan as everyday household utensils and for informal and semi-formal tea drinking. During the second half of the 19th century, tetsubin made especially as tea utensils came to be highly esteemed. They were often elaborately decorated with cast iron relief ornament or with inlays. Fine ornamental tetsubin of this type were preferred by the upper classes for the sencha style tea ceremony.

A common characteristic of sencha kettles was that one side more heavily decorated than the other. In the sencha tea ceremony a tetsubin, held by the host in his right hand, is looked at by the guest with the spout pointing to the right. This is the side of the tetsubin which is usually more ornately decorated in order to enable the guest to admire the kettle’s “best” side. High relief ornamental tetsubin like this one are magnificent examples of Japanese ironwork which are very much sought after by collectors today. Tea enthusiasts would also value the simplicity, unaffectedness and imperfection that exemplifies the wabi/sabi aesthetic found in this kettle.

CONDITION is excellent; there is normal interior rusting consistent with age and usage.

DIMENSIONS: 5” (12.8 cm) high to top of pot, 9 ˝” (24.2 cm) high to top of handle, approximately 6” (15.3 cm) diameter. Weight approximately 5 pounds (2.3 kg).

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