Japanese / Octagonal Jar / Edo period, late 17th centuryJapanese
Octagonal Jar
Edo period, late 17th century

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Creator Nationality: Asian; Far East Asian; Japanese
Creator Name-CRT: Japanese
Title: Octagonal Jar
View: Full View
Creation Start Date: 1667
Creation End Date: 1699
Creation Date: Edo period, late 17th century
Creation Place: Japan, Saga Prefecture
Object Type: Decorative Arts and Utilitarian Objects
Classification Term: Ceramics
Materials and Techniques: Porcelain painted with underglaze cobalt blue (Arita ware)
Dimensions: H. 20 1/8 in. (51.1 cm); W. 15 1/2 in. (39.4 cm)
AMICA Contributor: Asia Society
Owner Location: New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 1979.230
Credit Line: Asia Society: The Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection
Rights: http://www.asiasociety.org
Context: The rapid development and diversification of the Japanese porcelain industry in the 17th century is one of the most fascinating episodes in the history of ceramics. During this period, the city of Arita, located in the Saga Prefecture in Hizen Province on the southern island of Kyushu, became the largest and most important center for the production of porcelain in the world. Several factors contributed to this development. One was the contribution of the many technically advanced potters brought to Japanfrom Korea during the late 16th-century Japanese invasions of that country. Another was the prohibitive effects of the civil disarray in 17th-century China on its ceramic industry, which led Europeans and other customers in search of highly prized porcelains to turn to Japan.

Many questions remain regarding the development of porcelain in Japan. Traditionally, the discovery of the type of clay needed to produce porcelains has been credited to a potter named Ri Sampei, who was one of the Korean artisansbrought to Japan. Production of porcelains began around 1610 in the Karatsu stoneware kilns located just to the north of Arita. Karatsu wares also reflected the influence of other Korean advances, such as sophisticated types of kilns and kick wheels for throwing.

The majority of Japanese porcelains are classified as Arita wares, based on the location of their production. The first Japanese porcelains were painted with underglaze cobalt blue, known as "old blue-and-white" ware (ko-sometsuke).(Overglaze enamels were added to the palette around 1640.) Blue-and-white wares were often made with a poor-quality clay, and their decoration sketchy. By 1620ý??30, however, blue-and-white wares were more elegantly painted with landscapes and bird-and-flower themes.

This large blue-and-white octagonal jar, produced in the late 17th century, is illustrative. The large size suggests that it was made for export, and the painting is carefully composed to cover the surface. The body of the jar is encircled by a spring landscape, the season indicated by a blossoming plum tree. Two groups of boaters, consisting of scholar-gentlemen and their attendants, enjoy the balmy weather. The seasonal atmosphere in the painting is enhanced by flying waterfowl and asense of lushness and verdancy. The eight stylized images depicted on the neck of the jar represent the eight Buddhist treasures. Stylized flower petals and images of dragons flying through clouds decorate the shoulder of the jar, and triangular patternsfill a narrow band on the base.

The inclusion of scholar-gentlemen reflects the influence of Chinese art and literature on Japanese culture. Landscape themes became popular motifs on Chinese porcelains during the second half of the 17th century. Known as the Transitional period in Chinese ceramic history, this era was one of great experimentation in vessel shapes and types of decoration. Some of the Chinese blue-and-white wares produced during this period were created especially for the Japanese market. Although the Chinese pieces were often commissioned for use in the Japanese tea ceremony, the style of decoration found on those pieces had a broader impact, influencing works such as this large jar.

Related Document Description: Asia Society. Handbook of the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection. New York: Asia Society, [1981], p. 102.
AMICA ID: ASIA.1979.230
AMICA Library Year: 1998
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright, Asia Society

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