Black Raku ware tea bowl named Minogame (Mossy-tailed tortoise)

Tea-bowl of cylindrical shape, flat cut rim, named Mino-game (long-tailed tortoise).
Clay: coarse dark brown stoneware
Glaze: dark olive green to brown, uneven mat surface

Artist: Attributed to Hon'ami Kōetsu 本阿弥光悦 (1558-1637)
Historical period(s)
Edo period, 1605-1637
Earthenware with black raku glaze
Raku ware
H x Diam: 8.7 × 12.5 cm (3 7/16 × 4 15/16 in)
Japan, Kyoto prefecture, Kyoto
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Ceramic, Vessel

Tea bowl

Edo period (1615 - 1868), Japan, Raku ware, stoneware, tea

To 1899
Bunkio Matsuki (1867-1940), Boston, to 1899 [1]

From 1899 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Bunkio Matsuki in 1899 [2]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [3]


[1] See Original Pottery List, L. 423, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives.

[2] See note 1.

[3] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919
Bunkio Matsuki (C.L. Freer source) 1867-1940


Tea-bowl of cylindrical shape, flat cut rim, named Mino-game (long-tailed tortoise).
Clay: coarse dark brown stoneware
Glaze: dark olive green to brown, uneven mat surface


Hon'ami Koetsu was a sword polisher and appaiser by profession, but he gained fame as a calligrapher and also as a maker of tea bowls that were much admired and replicated. Surviving letters show that Koetsu collaborated for making tea bowls with the Raku workshop of professional potters in Kyoto: using clay supplied by the workshop, Koetsu sculpted bowl forms by hand and returned them to the workshop for glazing and firing.

The black glaze on this cylindrical bowl with blunt-cut rim was scraped away to create a feeling of dignified age and wear. The slightly underfired glaze has a green tinge and matte surface. In shape and glazing, this bowl closely resembles several other Black Raku tea bowls thought to have been made by Koetsu. If not from Koetsu's own hand, this bowl is probably a faithful copy by a professional potter. The bowl's name Minogame (Mossy-Tailed Tortoise) is recorded on the bowl's storage box, which was inscribed by Rokurokusai (1837-1910), eleventh head of the Omote Senke school of tea.

Published References
  • Morgan Pitelka. Handmade Culture: Raku Potters, Patrons, and Tea Practitioners in Japan. Honolulu. pl. 5.
  • Zaigai Nihon no Shiho [Japanese Art: Selections from Western Collections]. 10 vols., Tokyo, 1979 - 1980. vol. 9: pl. 24.
  • Oriental Ceramics: The World's Great Collections. 12 vols., Tokyo. vol. 10, pl. 54.
  • Thomas Kerrigan. Raku. Richmond, VA, Spring 1971. fig. 3.
  • Roger Soame Jenyns. Japanese Pottery. London. pl. 114.
  • Mayuyama Junkichi. Japanese Art in the West. Tokyo. pl. 352.
  • Dr. John Alexander Pope, Thomas Lawton, Harold P. Stern. The Freer Gallery of Art. 2 vols., Washington and Tokyo, 1971-1972. cat. 102, vol. 2: p. 180.
  • Louise Allison Cort. The Artist in Edo. Washington. p. 17, figs. 7-8.
  • Frank Feltens. Ogata Korin: Art in Early Modern Japan. New Haven, CT, October 12, 2021. p. 76, fig. 40.
  • Masterpieces of Chinese and Japanese Art: Freer Gallery of Art handbook. Washington, 1976. p. 82.
  • Louise Allison Cort. Japanese and Korean Ceramics. vol. 36, no. 1 Hong Kong, January-February 2006. p. 102, fig. 1.
  • Denys Sutton. The Lure of the Golden Bowl. vol. 118, no. 258 London. p. 123.
  • , no. 39 Lexington, Massachusetts, 2018. p. 152, fig. 31.
  • Ideals of Beauty: Asian and American Art in the Freer and Sackler Galleries. Thames and Hudson World of Art London and Washington, 2010. p. 153.
  • Richard L. Wilson. The Potter's Brush: The Kenzan Style in Japanese Ceramics. Exh. cat. Washington. p. 159, fig. 42.
  • Mark Getlein. Living With Art., 9th ed. New York. p. 448, fig. 19.34.
  • Sherman Lee. A History of Far Eastern Art. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1964. p. 472, fig. 626.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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