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A set of five sencha steeped tea tea cups by the first Suwa Sozan decorated with three seasonal or auspidcious fruits and a poem by famed literatus Tomioka Tessai enclosed in the original signed wooden box. Each cup is 2-1/4 x 2 inches (5.7 x 5 cm) and is in fine condition.
Sozan I (1852-1922) was born in Kutani country, present day Ishikawa prefecture, where he initially studied before moving to Tokyo in 1875. Over the next 25 years he would gravitate between Tokyo and Kanazawa, working at various kilns and research facilities. He again relocated, this time to Kyoto in 1900 to manage the Kinkozan Studio before establishing his own. His name became synonymous with celadon and refined porcelain and was one of only five potters to be named Teishitsu Gigei-in. The Teishitsu Gigei-in were members of the Imperial Art Academy, Perhaps in modern terms one might call them the predecessors to the Living National Treasures. However unlike the LNT, there were only five Pottery artists ever named Teishitsu Gigei-in, Ito Tozan, Suwa Sozan, Itaya Hazan, Miyagawa Kozan, and Seifu Yohei III. He was succeeded by his adopted daughter upon his death. He is held in the Kyoto National Museum among many others.
Tomioka Tessai (1837-1924) was a scholar artist trained from age seven in the traditional Confucian manner. After the death of his father he was apprenticed to a Shinto shrine, and later was forced to escape the capitol to Kyushu to avoid arrest for anti-governmental actions he had taken on part of the Imperial cause. Here he began serious study of Literati painting and furthered his scholarly research. Upon returning to Kyoto he was befriended by and moved to work under Otagaki Rengetsu, from whom he was heavily influenced. He helped to establish the Nihon Nanga-In and held a number of important positions, culminating in being appointed the official painter of the Emperor and a member of the Imperial Art Academy; the highest honor in Japanese Art circles. He is represented in innumerable important collections. Information on this important person is readily available, for more see Scholar Painters of Japan by Cahill (1972), Roberts Dictionary, or a quick internet search will find plenty of reading. He is held in the Tokyo National Museum, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Kyoto, V&A etc…