Aka Raku Zou Koro



Ceramic incense burner
Red Raku ware
Attributed to Raku Dōnyū (1599-1656)
Japan, Edo period (1603-1868), ca. 17th century
H. 7.7 in (19.5cm) – W. 11 in (28cm)

“Raku is best, Hagi is second, and Karatsu is third.” This is a famous phrase which explains the tea master’s taste. Raku began to be produced in the Momoyama period (1573-1603) and is still made today by the Raku family in Kyoto. The peculiarities of Raku ware are the technique of producing it by hand without a potter’s wheel and the low firing temperature. Raku Dōnyū, also known as Nonkō, or Kichizaemon III (1599-1656) was the third generation Raku Master of the Raku family. He is often considered the most skilful Raku potter. He was a very close friend of the great artist Hon’ami Kōetsu (1558-1637) whose tea bowls were fired in the Raku kiln. He introduced new styles to the wares produced in the workshop founded by Chōjirō, the forebear of the Raku family during the Momoyama period, partly through Kōetsu’s influence and under the patronage of tea master Sen no Rikyū, who redefined chanoyu (the tea ceremony). Many types of motifs were used to make incense burners (koro), including shishi (lion-dog) shapes, but an elephant type is rather rare. With regards to this piece, its appearance as a gentle face, with four upright legs which support a big and round trunk and tail, is both lovely and whimsical. The edges of the opening and the cover have an older silver lacquer restoration.
Works by this artist can be found in the Raku Museum in Kyoto, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and in the Seattle Art Museum.