Friday, September 12, 2014

Sakamoto Goro's Song Ceramics

The most aesthetic of Asian aesthetes admire the ceramics of China's Song Dynasty (960-1279) more than any other objects crafted by human hands.

Song ceramics were generally not highly decorated, as you can see from the "Sky Blue Jun Bowl" at the top or this "Ding Lotus Bowl." Instead, Song potters strove for perfection of form and color, a beauty meant to be meditative rather than shocking.

The top aesthetes made their admiration for the finest Song pieces into a sort of cult:
This reverence is reflected in the extreme care taken in the handling, display and storage of these quiet, but powerfully absorbing works of art. Many such pieces have survived in use for over 800 years, kept wrapped in silk within specially made wooden boxes tied with a particularly effective form of ribbon. Often the most valued have a second box. To admire such pieces required a connoisseur to focus entirely on the occasion, and sessions to view great pieces would be held amidst tightly observed ritual and the deepest of respect for knowledge, the knowledgeable and most of all for the piece itself. Song ceramics were, and still are, treated with the utmost reverence and regarded as the highest form of ceramic art in the world.
Among those aesthetes was Japanese collector Sakamoto Goro; these black and white pictures are of ceramic viewings held in his home. Eight valuable works from his collection are for sale at Sotheby's New York on September 16.

This is the most spectacular piece, a "Vortex Jar" that Sotheby's calls "very rare." I have certainly never seen anything like it. It could be yours for an estimated price of $3 million.

A "Splashed Purple Back Jun Bowl."

Celadon vase.

And a "Hare's Fur" tea bowl.

Traditional Japanese boxes and cloth covers for precious ceramic pieces.

I never know what to make of insider aestheticism carried to this level. Yes, these are nice pieces, and they are a thousand years old, but are they worthy of that level of obsession? I guess it doesn't matter. It gives some people a great thrill to treat these objects as beyond extraordinary, and there isn't anything wrong with that.

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