Ninsei Nonomura / Tea Leaf Jar / Edo period, mid-17th centuryNinsei Nonomura
Tea Leaf Jar
Edo period, mid-17th century

View Larger Image

View Full Catalog Record Below

This image is one of over 108,000 from the AMICA Library (formerly The Art Museum Image Consortium Library- The AMICO Library™), a growing online collection of high-quality, digital art images from over 20 museums around the world. offers subscriptions to this collection, the finest art image database available on the internet. EVERY image has full curatorial text and can be studied in depth by zooming into the smallest details from within the Image Workspace.
Preview the AMICA Library™ Public Collection in Luna Browser Now

  • Cultures and time periods represented range from contemporary art, to ancient Greek, Roman, and Egyptian works.
  • Types of works include paintings, drawings, watercolors, sculptures, costumes, jewelry, furniture, prints, photographs, textiles, decorative art, books and manuscripts.

Gain access to this incredible resource through either a monthly or a yearly subscription and search the entire collection from your desktop, compare multiple images side by side and zoom into the minute details of the images. Visit for more information on the collection, click on the link below the revolving thumbnail to the right, or email us at .

Creator Name: Nonomura Ninsei
Creator Nationality: Asian; Far East Asian; Japanese
Creator Dates/Places: c. 1574-1660/66
Creator Name-CRT: Ninsei Nonomura
Title: Tea Leaf Jar
View: Full view: back
Creation Start Date: 1634
Creation End Date: 1666
Creation Date: Edo period, mid-17th century
Creation Place: Japan, Kyoto Prefecture
Object Type: Decorative Arts and Utilitarian Objects
Classification Term: Ceramics
Materials and Techniques: Enamels
Materials and Techniques: Silver
Materials and Techniques: Stoneware
Materials and Techniques: Stoneware painted with overglaze enamels and silver (Kyoto ware)
Dimensions: H. 12 in. (30.5 cm); D. 9 1/2 in. (24.1 cm)
AMICA Contributor: Asia Society
Owner Location: New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 1979.251
Credit Line: Asia Society: The Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection
Context: A ceramic industry developed in and around Kyoto in the 16th century, and the stonewares produced there for the domestic market differ in shape and style of decoration from the better-known contemporaneous porcelains from Arita made primarily for export.Both Kyoto wares and Arita porcelains are often painted with overglaze enamel pigments. This technique appeared in both places around 1640, and its use continues to be a hallmark of the Kyoto pottery tradition. Unlike the anonymous artisans who made Arita porcelains, however, many of the potters working in Kyoto, such as Nonomura Ninsei and Ogata Kenzan, played important roles in the culture of that city and were renowned as artists during and after their lifetimes.

Nonomura Ninsei (c. 1574-1660/66) was born Tsuboya Seiemon in Tamba, a province noted for its production of rugged utilitarian wares. Very little is known about his life. He arrived in Kyoto around 1647 and probably already either had important connections or some fame as he was permitted to establish a kiln called Omuro near the south gate of Ninnaji, an important Buddhist temple. He took the artist-name Ninsei around 1656; the first syllable of this name derives from that of the temple. Ninsei had close ties to Kawamori Sowa (1585-1656), one of the most renowned tea masters of his time, and Ninsei's ceramics, called Omuro wares, played an important role in Sowa's tea ceremonies and other cultural gatherings. Ninsei's works are thought to embody the concept of kirei, or 'refined beauty,' favored by Sowa.

The shape of this storage jar used for tea leaves illustrates Ninsei's ability to make refinements to well-known forms. The jar is taller and narrower than most storage jars of this type, and the shape of the shoulder and foursmall lugs reflects those of much smaller tea caddies used to store powdered tea during the tea ceremony. This innovative shape is one of the most famous designed by Ninsei, and only ten or so examples are extant, the majority in Japan. Most have individual names, a measure of the esteem in which they are held. Used to store tea leaves that had been gathered in the spring, these jars would have been opened during a special ceremony in November when new tea leaves were used for the first time.

This jar is made of a reddish stoneware that has been partially covered with a milky white glaze filled with minute crazing (fine lines created by the shrinking of the glaze in the kiln). A seal reading Ninsei is impressed into the unglazed base. Overglaze enamels were used to paint the seven crows, bamboo, and rocks on the jar. One crow sits on the ground while the other six are flying. The crows appear to be quarreling, and their placement over the entire surface of the jar singly and in groups creates a sense of movement that is unusual for painted compositions on ceramics. Touches of silver (now tarnished) were added to the wings of the crows, enhancing the richness of the surface. The crow is sometimes seen as a good omen in East Asia, and the depiction of these seven crows as quarrelsome adds an element of humor.

Related Document Description: Asia Society. Handbook of the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection. New York: Asia Society, [1981], p. 109.
Related Document Description: Meech-Pekarik, Julia. 'Notable Japanese Ceramics.' Apollo (November 1983), p. 433.
Related Document Description: Shimada, Shujiro, ed. Zaigai Nihon no shiho (Japanese Art Treasures Abroad). Tokyo: Mainichi Shinbun, 1981, vol. 9, pl. 76.
AMICA ID: ASIA.1979.251
Component Measured: overall
Measurement Dimension: height
Measurement Value: 30.5
Measurement Unit: cm
Measurement Dimension: depth
Measurement Value: 24.1
AMICA Library Year: 1998
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright, Asia Society

AMICA PUBLIC RIGHTS: a) Access to the materials is granted for personal and non-commercial use. b) A full educational license for non-commercial use is available from Cartography Associates at c) Licensed users may continue their examination of additional materials provided by Cartography Associates, and d) commercial rights are available from the rights holder.

Home | Subscribe | Preview | Benefits | About | Help | Contact
Copyright © 2007 Cartography Associates.
All rights reserved.