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(Firm of) Nizaemon

Vase c.1900-10

Cast iron | 27.3 x 23.0 x 23.0 cm (whole object) | RCIN 42343

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  • This vessel, with a discreet moulded band encircling the shoulder, its purposely unpolished surface and simple outline, perfectly characterises the aesthetic of wabi sabi and shibui. The first two terms derive from Buddhist philosophy and encapsulate an understated elegance or rustic simplicity (wabi) and the beauty or serenity that comes with age, such as the impermanence evident in surface patina and wear (sabi). The two concepts are often combined to describe acceptance of the transience of life and an appreciation of imperfection, impermanence and incompleteness. Wabi sabi is complemented by shibui, the appeal of simplicity, subtlety and unobtrusive beauty. Cast iron is an ideal material to embody such an aesthetic – its surface naturally liable to patina. In places, the ribs which flank the central band of scrolling foliage and fruit on this vessel are interrupted, enhancing the sense of impermanence.

    This object has traditionally been associated with the gifts received by the Prince of Wales during his visit to Japan in 1922, although it does not appear in any of the official lists. 

    Text adapted from Japan: Courts and Culture (2020)


    Probably acquired by King Edward VIII when Prince of Wales in Japan, 1922

    Possibly the '1 VASE, Jap., Bronze, 112. Given by H.R.H. the Prince of Wales, 1922. No.149A' recorded in the Eastern Durbar and Horn Room Corridor in the Osborne House Inventory of Furniture, Works of Art, Pictures, Etc. in the Eastern Durbar and Horn Room Corridor, 1933 (revised 1965), p. 810 b.ii-iii.

  • Medium and techniques

    Cast iron


    27.3 x 23.0 x 23.0 cm (whole object)