JAPANESE BAMBOO BASKETS

Hanchiku Flower Basket by Wada Waichisai I

Wada Waichisai I和田和一斎

1851-1904

Hanchiku Flower Basket

43x 23 x 23 cm

17 x 9 x 9 in

Original box signed and sealed by Waichisai II

This basket has a classic flower basket form, with lovely texture and pattern and a natural complexity that is very easy on the eye. Body, rim and handle seem to extend from each other inevitably. The basket is particularly distinguished by the use of thin, deeply colored "black" hanchiku, a material whose earthy spalted (or spotted) surface was prized by the Chinese literati whose 16th and 17th century aesthetic sensibility so influenced the steeped tea (sencha) world of late 19th + early 20th century Japan.

 

The layered spotting -reminiscent of the different layers of black in Chinese ink painting- is caused by a fungus growing on the live plant, and is especially prominent on the lovely unspilt lengths that form the handle. Hanchiku is a thin-stalked variety of bamboo that is said not to grow in Japan, and was imported by sencha tea aficionados. When found in basketry this prize material appears most frequently as an accent, almost never as the principal material. In this case, the rich, spotted coloration and narrow, rounded lengths of bamboo bring a unique feel to this rare basket.

This basket is attributed to Wada Waichisai I, though the box is signed by his son Waichisai II. Few baskets can be definitively attributed to the elder Waichisai, who is often firstly described as an important mentor (his disciples include Tanabe Chikuunsai I, Yamamoto Chikuryosai I, and Maeda Chikubosai I, the 'old masters' who would define Kansai area bamboo basketry into the 1940s). Waichisai I's own hand may also be obscured by the difficulty in distinguishing the works of the three Waichisai generations in stylistic terms. Since each Waichisai had slightly different ways of signing his work, a discrepancy  here between the characters written on the box in Waichisai II's own hand, and those inscribed on the basket, point to two separate individuals. The basket should therefore have been made by the elder Waichisai.

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