Kutani Shoza Factory, colored and gold bowl with beasts and landscapes

On this big bowl, by the painting style like “colored and brocade” created by Kutani Shoza (九谷庄三) in the end of the Edo period (a style of drawing in brocade on the designs that are painted in various neutral colors instead of red), various designs such as beasts, birds-and-flowers and landscapes etc. are drawn on the entire surface. This painting style was also called “Shoza’s painting style” which became a typical style. In the first half of the Meiji period this painting style works were created by Shoza himself and was mass-produced at Shoza’s painting factory.

size diameter about 31 cm height about 9.2 cm

In the center of the bowl, the design of beast, which was a representative design of Shoza, is painted in colored and gold. It is said that Shoza liked the rural landscape and the scene that was usually seen in Japanese rural areas at that time. In the center of the bowl, a strong and powerful rooster is incorporated dignifiedly.

On the other hand, the Chinese-style landscape and person figure that were seen at the beginning of the Meiji period are also drawn as usual. It is an interesting design that the landscape seen through the window of the room where the literati seated seems to be the same as the landscape drawn in the left panel.

Four large flowers are drawn in green on the back side, and the back side is filled with flower patterns drawn in black zaffer, which was often used by Shoza or in some works at the end of the Edo period.

The back name is written as “九谷kutani / 庄三Shoza” in a two-line writing. However, this back name is also considered to be one of several styles of the back names used by Kutani Shoza.

As Shoza’s fame grew, Shoza’s back name had the meaning of a so-called brand. Of course, Kutani Shoza used also back name in one-line writing that indicates that the work was created by himself, but it is very rare. Almost is a two-line writing “Kutani / Shoza” that indicates that “kutani” means kutani ware and it was a product of the factory. Nevertheless, it is said that the product with even two-line back name was regarded as “made (authenticated) by Kutani Shoza (his factory)”.

creator of the work

Kutani Shoza  九谷庄三   born in 1816, dien in 1883

Kutani Shoza was as a child of an agricultural teahouse (a restaurant in a rural area) in Terai Village, Nomi county. His childhood name was “Shoshichi” (庄七), and he changed it to “Shoza” (庄三) around 1848-1854, and it is thought that he began to give his surname “九谷Kutani” in the Meiji period because ordinary people were allowed to give their surname.

Kutani Shoza built several painting kilns at the age of 26 in 1841 and started a painting factory after training at several kilns in Nomi county at an early age. In this factory, Shoza gave rough production instructions to a large number of disciples and painters, and the works of his painting style were produced, and almost were produced with the back name “Kutani / Shoza”. Shoza’s favorite design was a farming village that drew in detail the rural landscape, or a rooster that pecked at the garden of a farmhouse.

At the factory, a lot of body purchased according to the painting style were painted with Western paints, such as the body of the Ono kiln or the body from Yahata, Hanida etc. in Komatsu, and Western paints imported from the end of the Edo period to the beginning of the Meiji period were quickly adopted to their painting, and they developed the neutral colors that could not be expressed until now, so a gorgeous yet delicate and profound painting style was built. The products of “Shoza-painting styla” were very well received.

Kutani Shoza factory 1841-1883

In 1841, Kutani Shoza factory was opened by Kutani Shoza in Terai Village, Nomi county. The factory did not have a main kiln for the body, and painted on the body purchased from the Ono kiln and others. The factory had 200 or 300 painters and mass-produced “Shoza-painting style” products.

It is said that the first Takekoshi Zenbei (武腰善平) who started the training under Shoza in 1855, and Nakagawa Jisaku (中山二作) who started the training in 1864, and Nakano Chuji (中野忠次) and Kasama Shuseki (笠間秀石) etc. also assisted Shoza in this factory. Later they became master craftsmen of Meiji kutani. Therefore, the products of the factory were supervised under Shoza and their strict supervision, so it is said that the finished products of “Shoza-painting style” at the factory were mass-produced under high quality. So, it was well received both in Japan and overseas.

The products of the factory occupied a large proportion in kutani products in the early Meiji period and became the centerpiece of “Japan Kutani”. They became the core of kutani, and were exported by pottery merchants, so were very popular overseas as trade products in Japan. And they were also sold well in Japan. Kutani Shoza greatly contributed to the development of the breeding industry in the early Meiji period.

However, when Shoza died in 1883, his high-ranking disciples became independent, so the factory had no anyone to organize the factory, and disappeared naturally. However, some painters or craftsmen continued to make products with the back name “kutani / Shoza”, so the products like Shoza-painting style overflowed in the market.