Japanese and Chinese antiques and art from B & C
Signed Bunjin Tetsubin with Relief Orchids and Waves

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All Items: Archives:Regional Art:Asian:Japanese: Pre 1900: item # 1124937

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

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Signed Bunjin Tetsubin with Relief Orchids and Waves

Cast using the lost-wax method, this unusual low relief ornamental Japanese iron teapot (“tetsubin”) has a unique design in Chinese scholar taste (“bungin”). Meiji period (1868-1912). The heavy patinated bronze lid bears an engraved signature that reads “Shouun-do, Zo" (Shouun-do made). The subtle simplicity of the relief casting on this kettle is superb. The background design is composed of three panel segments covered with an overall low relief cast flower and stylized waves design. These layered or “stacked” waves, which are composed of half circles and look as if they are combed, are known as “seigaiha,” the blue wave pattern. Cast in higher relief atop the stylized waves are delicate orchid blossoms and leaves which look like they are bending in the wind. There is a wavy -- “crimped” almost like a pie crust -- border cast in higher relief which vertically separates each of the three panels and adds further dimension to the kettle. The iron handle has areas of silver inlay.

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 19th century, tetsubin made especially as tea utensils came to be highly esteemed. Fine ornamental tetsubin were preferred by the upper classes for the sencha style tea ceremony, which was less formal and proscribed than the “chanoyu” tea ceremony.

During the 18th century, a craze had developed in Japan for bunjin, the art and culture of the Chinese literati scholar/painter. One of their daily customs was the drinking of sencha. This custom was adopted by the growing class of Japanese Confucian scholars. The artistic situation in Kyoto around 1800 was influenced by the activities of these Japanese literati, and the sencha cult became one of their favorite pastimes. The interest in sencha soon spread from the bunjin-enthusiasts to the common people in Kyoto, especially to the rich merchants. By using the lost-wax method, metal casters were able to make relief decorated tea utensils in the style of the bunjin, which specifically suited the tastes of the sencha enthusiasts at that time. 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 excellent; there is normal interior rusting consistent with age and usage.

DIMENSIONS: 4 ½” (11.5 cm) high to top of pot, 9” (22.8 cm) high to top of handle, approximately 7” (17.7 cm) diameter. Weight 4 pounds (1.8 kg).

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