Japanese - Okakura Tea Set, 18th century - 20th century


Object details

Accession number



Gift from Okakura Kakuzo (1862-1913), Japanese art historian and philosopher, to Isabella Stewart Gardner, 11 September 1905.


William Thrasher and Caroline Graboys. "The Beginnings of Chanoyu in America." Chanoyu Quarterly (1984), pp. 11-35, ill. (dated as 17th century-19th century)
Sunao Nakamura (ed.). Okakura Kakuzo: Collected English Writings, III (Tokyo, 1984), pp. 61-63, 66, 58-59.
Victoria Weston. East Meets West: Isabella Stewart Gardner and Okakura Kakuzo. Exploring Treasures in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum V. Exh. cat. (Boston: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 1992), p. 28.
Alan Chong et al. (eds.) Eye of the Beholder: Masterpieces from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 2003), pp. 176-77, ill.
Louise Allison Cort. "Mrs. Gardner's 'Set of Tea-Things.' A Vehicle for Friendship, Power, & Aesthetic Instruction" in Alan Chong and Noriko Murai. Journeys East: Isabella Stewart Gardner and Asia. Exh. cat. (Boston: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 2009), pp. 384-98, figs. 1-5, 10-11. (as dated 18th -19th century)

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Of Japanese scholar and philosopher Okakura Kakuzo's many gifts to Isabella, perhaps the most impressive was this tea set he sent to her from Japan in 1905. Earlier that year, he had conducted the tea ceremony (chanoyu) by candlelight one evening at the Museum. At this time, Okakura was writing The Book of Tea, an immensely popular book still in print, which uses the tea ceremony as an introduction to Japanese culture. Isabella had already participated in a tea ceremony in Tokyo in 1883.Following tea practices established over several centuries, Okakura gathered objects of divers materials, colors, textures, origins, and dates.  After Okakura's death, Isabella displayed the set on a table in the Chinese Room.