Storage Jar

Period: Muromachi period (1392–1573)

Date: 14th–15th century

Culture: Japan

Medium: Stoneware with natural ash glaze (Shigaraki ware)

Dimensions: H. 18 3/8 in. (46.7 cm); Diam. 15 1/2 in. (39.4 cm)

Classification: Ceramics

Credit Line: The Harry G. C. Packard Collection of Asian Art, Gift of Harry G. C. Packard, and Purchase, Fletcher, Rogers, Harris Brisbane Dick, and Louis V. Bell Funds, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, and The Annenberg Fund Inc. Gift, 1975

Accession Number: 1975.268.428


Although archaeologists have now uncovered over thirty centers of ceramic production in Japan dating to the Kamakura and Muromachi periods, the term "six old kilns" is still used sometimes to define the wares of Seto, Tokoname, Shigaraki, Tamba, Bizen, and Echizen. Located in Shiga Prefecture near Nagoya, Shigaraki was noted for its production of thick-walled utilitarian vessels with rich textural surfaces for the consumption of surrounding agrarian communities. Like those of the other early kiln sites, wares produced at Shigaraki were later adopted in the tea ceremony, where they were admired for their power and directness.

The beauty of this medieval storage jar lies in its rugged, unsophisticated shape and dramatic surface coloration. The asymmetry of its silhouette is due to the difficulty of controlling the shape in the coil construction technique used to make such massive jars. It was built up in several stages, as is apparent from the ridges visible at the lower, center, and upper body. Chance kiln effects determined the pattern of the dark rivulets of green ash glaze, the dull gray encrustation of unfused ash on the shoulder, the glistening patches of melted feldspar, and the white flecks of unfused quartz on the pale salmon hue of the body.