White porcelain incense burner by Ito Kei

Japan, Showa period, 1926 – 1989

Height: 5 1/4 inches, 13.5 cm
Diameter: 3 3/4 inches, 9.5 cm

A porcelain incense burner of rounded shape, supported on three pointed feet. The incense burner is covered by a flat, drop-in lid, which is surmounted by a straight, openwork finial. The sides are moulded with cranes in full flight with wings outstretched. The exterior of the porcelain is covered in a pure white glaze. The incense burner is signed on the base with the artist’s name and preserved in its original tomobako or wooden box, inscribed “Hakuji, Zuicho, Koro, Kei” (White porcelain, an auspicious bird (phoenix), an incense burner), with the seal Kei.

The ceramic artist Ito Kei was born in Kyoto in 1924. He came from a family of ceramists; his father Ito Chisebun was also a ceramic artist. After graduating from the Kyoto Municipal Arts and Crafts School in 1944, he went on to and graduated from the Kyoto Municipal Painting College. In 1943 his pieces were selected for the first time and exhibited in the literary exhibition. He exhibited and was awarded the prize of the Contemporary Japan Crafts Exhibition in 1965, and the Minister of Education Award in 1989. His works became highly valued at home and abroad; he has become most known for his white porcelains and celadon pieces.