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Calligraphy on Kutani ceramics

Published on : 28 April 2020

This is a revised version of the April 20 Newsletter

For those who are interested in Calligraphy on Kutani ceramics I did recently some investigations, thanks to the Covid-19 confinement.
I had already issued a newsletter on Calligraphy which is still actual but was mainly concentrated on 2 types of poems which is encountered on most of the ceramics, I mean Sanjurokkasen and Hyakunin isshu!!. These are 2 very famous and well known Japanese poems.
During this confinement period I also took the opportunity to modify the database and the different search/request functions and add a special section for Calligraphy Motifs with some explanations or background when available.

I have in the database more than hundred ceramics with calligraphy recorded.
After few days… and thanks to Google, I could recognize 19 types of poems or songs and I still continue to try to complete the list.
You can find the list of poems with example at least of the title in the Database =>Type of Kutani => Calligraphy motifs.

The main difficulties to identify a poem are :
-  Many are Chinese poems (I am not very good in Japanese, but Chinese is another story!)
-  Many kanji are based on old obsolete forms and difficult to identify and worst, it is difficult to write with a computer
-  Most are of course badly or wrongly written or both!
-  Calligraphy is rather difficult to read especially in this very small format and a lot of imagination is required to recognize the title and then the text.

I do not have always good photos of the inside of the piece and I recognize also that they are not easy to take.
So I may request some of you to send me again some pictures in order to complete my list and also the database. You may also send me your calligraphy if it was not the case.

If you want to have a global look, you may check what is in the DB by looking in Kutani database => Ceramics=> Calligraphy => All ceramics and browse through all the ceramics recorded in the DB
or choose Calligraphy Motifs, then you can select the motif/poem you want.

Some clues when looking at a poem:
-  They are written from right to left and from top to bottom
-  The first vertical line generally shorter is the title
-  Under the title is (often) written the name of the author (of the poem)
-  Then vertically the poem (waka for Japanese) in 4, 5, 7, 8 or 9 characters
-  And at the end, at the bottom, the signature of the calligraphist with some time an hanko in red
That’s the theory, after anything is possible!

So please have a look, there is a lot of fun first to recognize the title, then there are many sites who can translate the poems and I give a link when available.
If you have some other calligraphy do not hesitate to send me photos I will add them to the DB and help you recognize if possible what it is.

If you have ideas or comments or any kind of help, you are welcome!