Plates with Poems and Paintings of the Twelve Lunar Months

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Plates with Poems and Paintings of the Twelve Lunar Months

Alternate Title: Iroe Teika ei jūnikagetsu waka kachōzu kakuzara
Japan, early 18th century
Earthenware with underglaze iron and overglaze enamels
each: 1/2 × 8 × 7 in. (1.27 × 20.32 × 17.78 cm)
Purchased with funds provided by the Japan Business Association and the Far Eastern Art Council (M.84.64.1-.12)
Not currently on public view

Curator Notes

Twelve square plates represent the months of the year....
Twelve square plates represent the months 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."

The back of each plate contains two poems: one for the flower, 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.

Take the twelfth month, which would be around January by the western calendar. To hear the poems inscribed on the back of that plate, press the play buttons below.

Plum Blossoms

The Mandarin Duck


  • Singer, Robert T., and Kawai Masatomo, editors. The Life of Animals in Japanese Art. Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 2019.
  • Brown, Kendall;  Kamens, Edward;  Nagata, Helen, Mitsu;  Neill, Mary Gardner;  Ulak, James T.; Wheelwright, Carolyn.  Word in Flower: the Visualization of Classical Literature in Seventeenth- Century Literature.  New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1989