Black Raku ware bowl, attributed to Hon'ami Koetsu

Black Raku ware bowl, attributed to Hon'ami Koetsu

Black Raku ware bowl
Attributed to Hon'ami Koetsu
Japan
Early 17th century
Museum no. 247-1877

The Japanese chanoyu, or tea ceremony, demonstrates a belief that, given discipline and attention to detail, the most routine acts and humble objects can acquire a transcendent form of beauty. Significantly, the serene chanoyu was established at a turbulent time in Japan's history. Chanonyu was practised in a small square room, also a stage for ikebana or flower arranging. The room was designed to achieve a meditative calmness while participation in the tea ceremony was a qualification for membership of polite society. Tea had been known since the third millennium BC, but the chanoyu with its precise rituals and beautifully considered paraphernalia turned the drinking of a simple beverage into a highly aestheticised performance with spiritual as well as gastronomic dimensions.

Stephen Bayley, Guest Curator