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The Beauty of Water Droppers: Selected Pieces from the Sen’en Collection

The Beauty of Water Droppers: Selected Pieces from the Sen’en Collection / Honkan Room 14   January 14, 2015 (Wed) - April 5, 2015 (Sun)

  
Water Dropper, Monkey on peach design, Edo period, 18th - 19th century (Gift of Mr. Watanabe Toyotaro and Mr. Watanabe Masayuki)

Liquid ink for brush painting and calligraphy was prepared by grinding a hardened stick of ink against an inkstone containing water. Utensils with spouts for pouring water into these inkstones are known as water droppers. There are small ones as well as larger ones roughly the size of teapots, although Spoutless water containers with spoons for transferring the water to inkstones were also used. Together with brushes and brush racks, as well as inkstones and the small standing screens used to decorate them, these utensils were prized in countries with traditions of brush and ink. Moreover, they were created with various materials and featured elaborate shapes and designs. The most common material was ceramic, although metals and semi-precious stones were also used. Early examples of Chinese water droppers are from the Southern and Northern Dynasties period (5th-6th century), while the earliest known example in Japan is a Nara period (8th century) gilt bronze piece, now part of the Horyuji Treasures collection at this museum. Metal water droppers continued to be made through the ages and from the Edo period (1603-1868), intricate designs making the most of highly-developed metalwork techniques and based on animals, plants, as well as stories surrounding historical and legendary figures were created.

The Sen’en Collection of 442 metal water droppers - donated in its entirety to the museum in 2013 - was accumulated by Watanabe Toyotaro (Sen’en) and his son, Masayuki. Pieces from the Edo period feature designs of various genres and include many rare examples of cloisonné. This is indeed a superb collection in terms of both number and quality. For this exhibition, pieces from each genre have been selected for a total of 138, allowing visitors to explore the diversity and rich artistic expression found in metal water droppers.

 Major works in this exhibition
* Works listed below are in the TNM Collection unless otherwise indicated.
 Major works in this exhibition
* Works listed below are in the TNM Collection unless otherwise indicated.
Water Dropper, Long-eared hare design, Edo period, 18th - 19th century (Gift of Mr. Watanabe Toyotaro and Mr. Watanabe Masayuki)
Water Dropper in Shape of Octagonal Teapot, Yatsuhashi Bridge design, Edo period, 17th - 18th century (Gift of Mr. Watanabe Toyotaro and Mr. Watanabe Masayuki)
Water Dropper, Deer with peach design, Edo period, 18th - 19th century (Gift of Mr. Watanabe Toyotaro and Mr. Watanabe Masayuki)
Water Dropper, Blue magpie design, Edo period, 18th - 19th century (Gift of Mr. Watanabe Toyotaro and Mr. Watanabe Masayuki)
Water Dropper, Design of Jurojin (One of the Seven Gods of Good Fortune) with deer, Edo period, 18th - 19th century (Gift of Mr. Watanabe Toyotaro and Mr. Watanabe Masayuki)
Water Dropper in Shape of Double Round Teapot, Flower design in cloisonné, Edo period, 18th century (Gift of Mr. Watanabe Toyotaro and Mr. Watanabe Masayuki)