Each of these 12 square plates represent each month of the year. The artist, Ogata Kenzan, oversaw a ceramic workshop, where he controlled the designs and worked with the potters to create new modes of decoration. Even today, ceramics are made in the “Kenzan style.” Two poems are inscribed on the back of each plate: one about the flower, and the other for the bird of the month. The poems were written by a famous 13th-century poet, whose work inspired Japanese artists for centuries after.
The 12th month represented in this series would be January in the Western calendar. The text on the back of that plate reads:
It is that time when the snow buries the colors of the hedge,
Yet a branch of plum blooming, on “this side” of the New Year
The snow falls on the ice of the pond on which I gaze, piling up as does this passing year on all those past and on the feathered coast of the mandarin duck, the “bird of regret.”
This year marks LACMA's 50th anniversary. We're celebrating all that we've done while looking forward to what's in store for us in the next 50. Check back every week on Unframed to find a highlight of an artwork from LACMA's collection, which features over 120,000 objects that span time, the globe, and all cultures. This is 21/50 of the series. This text was adapted from the description on LACMA's Collections Online page.