Kosometsuke Dish

古染付青花四駿圖盤

Kosometsuke Dish Tianqi Period 1621–1627

Deliberately misshapen, produced from a coarse clay and fritted at the edges, this dish is of a radically different style from anything produced in China before, and indeed since. It owes its existence to the Japanese demand for porcelain for use in the tea ceremony during the early 17th century.

Its function would have been to present food during the kaiseki, a small meal of deli- cacies served during the tea ceremony prior to the serving of a thick tea called koicha.

The dish is decorated in a spirited manner with four horses set on a speckled blue ground. Most likely the horses were covered in a ‘wax resist’, or indeed paper, in order to protect them from the cobalt blue speckles that were blown onto the surface through a tube with a gauze-covered end. This technique is known in Japan as fukizumi, ‘blown ink’. It is quite possible that these are four of the eight horses that pulled the chariot of King Mu, an emperor of the 10th century BCE. Each horse had supernatural powers and indeed almost supernatural names. For instance, ‘Beyond Earth’ had hooves that did not touch the ground; perhaps that is him flying above the other three.

Distortions, imperfections, coarse clay and rim fritting – known affectionately as mushikui (‘insect bites’) – all appealed to the Japanese aesthetic. This dish is from a group of wares referred to in Japanese as kosom- etsuke (‘old blue and white’). The rarest and indeed most treasured forms of this genre of tea ceremony items seem to be the intention- ally misshapen pieces that perhaps reflect the subtle randomness of nature’s shapes.

Dia.24.2cm 91⁄2in

明天啟

直 徑 :2 4 . 2 公 分 9 1⁄2 英 寸