Incense or seal ink container with design of magpie and maidenflower for the seventh month

Artist: Ogata Kenzan (1663-1743) Narutaki workshop (active 1699-1712)
Historical period(s)
Edo period, 1699-1712
White clay; white slip, cobalt and iron pigments under transparent glaze, and enamels over glaze
H x W: 3 x 11.4 cm (1 3/16 x 4 1/2 in)
Japan, Kyoto prefecture, Kyoto
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Ceramic, Container

Incense box (kogo)

Edo period (1615 - 1868), incense, Japan

To 1903
Bunkio Matsuki (1867-1940), Boston, to 1903 [1]

From 1903 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Bunkio Matsuki in 1903 [2]

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


[1] Undated folder sheet note. See Original Pottery List, L. 1246, 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


The theme of this decoration (see also F1900.72) is both auspicious and literary, deriving from a poem sequence on birds and flowers of the twelve months by Fujiwara Teika (1162-1241).

Maidenflower, not seen except in autumn:
Have you made a pledge to greet the sky in which the lover-stars converge?

Having promised to join your wings with others through the whole night,
Magpies, have you waited all this time for autumn's coming
to make the bridge for the lovers' crossing?

Teika verse translations by Edward Kamens in Word in Flower, ed. Carolyn Wheelwright (New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 1989)

Published References
  • Richard L. Wilson, Ogasawara Saeko. Kenzanyaki Nyumon [Introduction to Kenzan Ceramics]. Tokyo. p. 40, pl. 3.
  • Richard L. Wilson. The Potter's Brush: The Kenzan Style in Japanese Ceramics. Exh. cat. Washington. cat. 17, p. 85.
  • Louise Allison Cort. The Kenzan Style in Japanese Ceramics. Watertown, Massachusetts, Autumn 2002. p. 168.
  • Miho Museum. Kenzan: A World of Quietly Refined Elegance. Exh. cat. Shiga. p. 240.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
SI Usage Statement

Usage Conditions Apply

There are restrictions for re-using this image. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

The information presented on this website may be revised and updated at any time as ongoing research progresses or as otherwise warranted. Pending any such revisions and updates, information on this site may be incomplete or inaccurate or may contain typographical errors. Neither the Smithsonian nor its regents, officers, employees, or agents make any representations about the accuracy, reliability, completeness, or timeliness of the information on the site. Use this site and the information provided on it subject to your own judgment. The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery welcome information that would augment or clarify the ownership history of objects in their collections.