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Kyoto ware individual serving bowl in shape of sedge hat, with mark "Kiyomizu"
late 17th century


Edo period

Stoneware with iron pigment under translucent white glaze; gold lacquer repairs
H: 4.7 W: 14.3 D: 14.3 cm
Kyoto, Japan

Gift of Charles Lang Freer F1897.15

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This ceramic bowl takes the form of a common and inexpensive hat made of the marsh grass sedge. Cobalt lines suggest the hat's coarse woven texture. Such hats not only protected wearers from the sun but also disguised those who did not wish to be recognized, especially men on their way to the pleasure quarters. (Shops at the entrance to Kyoto's entertainment district sold hats specifically for that purpose.) In sophisticated Kyoto, a bowl of this shape would have lent an amusing note to a meal served in a tea house. Alternatively, if the bowl were used for a summer meal, the associations of shape and material might have been merely seasonal. Sets of bowls in this shape were enduringly popular in the repertory of Kyoto ceramics.