On my way back from a meeting downtown, I stopped on the Mall and ducked into the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery to refresh body and spirit. My favorite among the amazing variety of DC museums, the Freer is rarely crowded and there is always something to inspire, whether it's ancient Buddhist and Hindu sculptures or the potent paintings of James McNeil Whistler. I wandered into a new exhibit based on the work of a group of artists working in 17th-century Japan—Bold and Beautiful: Rinpa in Japanese Art. Among the stunning screens and scrolls was a small gallery of tea ware in which a wall-sized case held only one object, a black Raku tea bowl named Minogame (Mossy-tailed tortoise). It was made by Hon’ami Kōetsu (1558–1637), a renowned Kyoto craftsman, calligrapher, and book designer. In addition to works on paper that include screens and fans, he worked in lacquerware, bamboo, metal, and clay. His tea bowls—only a handful of authenticated examples have survived—are considered treasures, and only two are known to be outside of Japan. Charles Lang Freer, whose collections form the foundation of the Smithsonian’s Asian art, acquired one of these in 1899. I’ve been familiar with Kōetsu's work since seeing a retrospective at the Philadelphia Museum in 2000. His graphic works and calligraphy have the same bold and breathtaking simplicity. Staring at this plain bronze-glazed bowl—large, useful, spare, obviously carved by hand—I wonder at its straightforward beauty. This bowl is so authentically itself, and I long to reach through the glass and hold it, letting my hands warm the cool ceramic. I’m reminded of a quote I read in Orhun Pamuk’s The Innocence of Objects (which he attributed to 16th-century Istanbul painter Veli Can): “Beauty is the eye discovering what the mind already knows.”