This wonderful and scarce large size mingei plate is known as an “uma-no-me zara” ("horse-eye" plate). It is heavily potted, glazed stoneware plate with seven oval-shaped decorations freely executed in underglaze iron pigments on a crackled ground. Edo period, early 19th century. A horse-eye motif is similar to a bull’s eye -- a concentric circle design -- except that the elongated horse-eye is ovoid rather than round, and the innermost circle is against one long side rather than in the middle. Prior to applying a clear glaze on this plate, the design was painted with iron oxide. The color of the design is a handsome, variegated reddish-brown color. The bold spiral patterns, which were painted very quickly, are imbued with great energy. The thick foot rim is unglazed.
In the mid to late Edo period, horse-eye plates were one of the standard utilitarian products produced by the Seto kilns. Used for serving food, they appeared in restaurants and inns along the Tokaido Road from Kyoto to Edo, as well as in ordinary homes. Horse-eye plates are the quintessential example of Japanese mingei pottery, and no major Japanese folk art collection would be considered complete without one. They are bold, fresh, powerful and contemporary in feeling.
It is quite rare to find uma-no-me zara in such a large size. See Photo A more typical horse-eye plate measures about 1/3rd les in diamter, around 10"d. One of similar size to this one are illustrated together in “Quiet Beauty” by Robert Moes which chronicles fifty centuries of Japanese folk ceramics from the world famous Jeffrey Montgomery Collection. The Montgomery Collection is widely considered to be the most important trove of Japanese folk art outside of Japan.
CONDITION is excellent for this type of folk ceramic dish. Due to their long and frequent use, horse-eye plates typically show signs of wear, yet there are only insignificant old rim chips on this one. The unglazed spots in the center ring are marks made by small ceramic points that separated the many plates that were stacked in the kiln during the firing process. This somewhat rough appearance only adds to the plate’s appeal. This uma-no-me zara is darkened by use and age, and it has a wonderful original patina.
DIMENSIONS: 13 ½” (34.5 cm) diameter, 1 ½” (3.8 cm) deep.
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