A fine sturdy Arita pitcher decorated in dark cobalt underglaze blue on white illustrating the classic "Three Friends" of plum, pine and bamboo - see footnote. Signed in a reserve on the base - it translates as "Sosen". Pitcher measures 6 1/4" tall - the body measures 4 1/4" in diameter exclusive of the handle. We date it from the last Meiji to early Showa period, circa 1910-1960. The pitcher is in excellent condition with no chips, cracks or restorations.
Footnote: The Three Friends of Winter, also known as Suihan Sanyou, symbolize the pine, bamboo, and plum. The Chinese observed that the pine, bamboo and plum do not wither as the cold days deepen into the winter season unlike many other plants. Together they symbolize steadfastness, perseverance, and resilience They are highly regarded in Confucianism and as such represent the scholar-gentleman's ideal. Culturally, the Three Friends of Winter—pine, bamboo, and plum—are grouped together in the context of winter because they all flourish at that season.
In a Korean poem by Kim Yuki (1580-1658), the three friends are brought together in order to underline the paradoxical contrast:
"Peach and plum of springtime, don't flaunt your pretty blossoms;
Consider rather the old pine and green bamboo at year's end.
What can change these noble stems and their flourishing evergreen?"
In Japan, they are particularly associated with the start of the Lunar New Year,