Treasures of the library

The Cortazzi Ceramic Collection

Square vase of Shimaoka Tatsuzō held at the Sainsbury Institute

The previous issue of the E-Bulletin mentioned that the Sainsbury Institute was given three-dimensional objects as a long-term loan from Sir Hugh and Lady Cortazzi. Among these 70 objects, around three quarters (fifty-three) are ceramics. And among the ceramics, about a third (eighteen) were made by the prominent Mashiko1 potter, Shimaoka Tatsuzō (1919-2007). Along with his works, the collection includes some of the most renowned modern Japanese ceramic artists such as Sakaida Kakiemon XIII (1906-1982), Imaizumi Imaemon XII (1897-1975) and Miwa Kyūsetsu XI (1967-2003). All four of the ceramic artists were designated as holders of Important Intangible Cultural Properties, i.e. Living National Treasures.

These generous gifts were given to the Sainsbury Institute in 2005. They used to be displayed in the Mingei-kan2, at the Cortazzi’s country house in East Sussex. Digital images of the objects were then made by Dr Maezaki Shin’ya in 2013. The Institute sought to obtain copyright permissions to publish digital images on the Internet with the help of Dr Mary Redfern in 2015. In August 2020, thanks to the cooperation of Professor Akama Ryō of Ritsumeikan University, Art Research Center and his team, it became possible to make the collection available as a database.

Sir Hugh wished the collection to be on public display and so most of the works by Shimaoka Tatsuzō (16 out of 18 items) and one work by Hamada Shinsaku (1929-), the second son of Hamada Shōji (1894-1978), are now on loan to the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts from the Sainsbury Institute. The database released this month includes these works located in the Sainsbury Centre.

Although it has taken a long time to complete the database, now seems an appropriate time to release it, on the occasion of the sankaiki3 of Sir Hugh Cortazzi’s death.
To view the collection in its entirety, please access:

the database of the Cortazzi ceramic collection

Akira Hirano
Lisa Sainsbury Library


1. Tochigi prefecture in Japan.

2. Sir Hugh and Lady Cortazzi displayed their objects in an exhibition space, which they called Mingei-kan.

3. The second anniversary of someone’s death. In Japanese Buddhist custom, a memorial service is usually held on this occasion.