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Used for ceremonial purposes by the Xia, Shang, and Zhou dynasties. Traditionally, the jue vessel was made of bronze with a pouring spout on either end and a pair of capped posts rising from the rim. This piece, although in the shape of a jue, is done in fine, powdery-blue celadon and is described on the tomobako as being a jue-shaped incense burner (korou).
Suwa Sozan the first (1852—1922) was born in an area of what is known today as Ishikawa prefecture. After a short stint in the military he took up pottery design and painting under Touda Tokuji in 1873. From this point forward, he divided his time mainly between Kanazawa and Tokyo working at a number of kilns and research institutes. While in Tokyo, he made the acquaintance of famed conservator of Japanese art Ernest Francisco Fenollosa and the two became fast friends. In 1900 Sozan was invited to Kyoto to work at the Kinkozan kiln where he became noticed for his great skill in creating fine porcelain and celadon works. Several years later in 1907, he set up an independent porcelain and ceramics kiln on Gojo Saka in Kyoto where he specialized in making a variety of porcelain pieces, most noted of which were his fine powdery-blue celadon pieces modeled after classic Chinese forms such as the jue cup featured here.
In 1917, Sozan was awarded the title of Teishitsu Gigei-in or Imperial Court Artist—what could be considered a precursor to the modern day Ningen Kokuho or National Living Treasure. His porcelains and meticulously detailed statuettes are held in the Imperial Collection, in the Ishikawa Prefectural Museum, and also in the Sumitomo Collection.
This piece is 3.5 inches in diameter (9cm) and stands 7.5 inches tall (19cm). It bears the artist’s seal impressed into the base of the cup and comes with the original tomobako which bears Sozan’s signature and seal on the underside of the lid. The piece is in excellent condition.