Japanese / Covered Bowl / Edo period, c. 1670-1690Japanese
Covered Bowl
Edo period, c. 1670-1690

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Creator Nationality: Asian; Far East Asian; Japanese
Creator Name-CRT: Japanese
Title: Covered Bowl
View: Full View
Creation Start Date: 1670
Creation End Date: 1690
Creation Date: Edo period, c. 1670-1690
Creation Place: Japan, Saga Prefecture
Object Type: Decorative Arts and Utilitarian Objects
Classification Term: Ceramics
Materials and Techniques: Porcelain painted with underglaze cobalt blue and overglaze enamels (Arita ware, Kakiemon style)
Dimensions: H. 14 3/8 in. (36.5 cm) with cover; D. 12 in. (30.5 cm)
AMICA Contributor: Asia Society
Owner Location: New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 1979.234a-b
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 first Japanese porcelains were painted with underglaze cobalt blue, known as "old blue-and-white" ware (ko-sumetsuke). But by about 1640, overglaze enamels had been added to the palette. It is generally accepted that overglaze enamels were introduced to Kyushu from Kyoto rather than from China. One reason for this assumption is the use of a vibrant overglaze blue in both Kyoto ware and Japanese porcelains, a color not found in Chinese ceramics of that period.

The majority of Japanese porcelains are classified as Arita wares, based on the location of their production. Arita wares are traditionally subdivided into Imari, Kakiemon, and Nabeshima styles (although this system is currently under revision). This large coveredbowl is characteristic of Kakiemon wares--named for the artisan who was once thought to have originated their style of decoration. Kakiemon wares have a lighter palette than Imari or Nabeshima, with pale blues, greens, yellows, and reds predominating. The compositions of the paintings are sparser; the motifs are more isolated and centered on two or more sides of a vessel rather than covering the entire surface; and the quality of the clay and glaze differs. The bodies of most Kakiemon-style wares are a warm, milky white, called nigoshide, and are considered the whitest porcelains produced in East Asia. In addition, Kakiemon wares tend to be more finely potted than other wares, and it seems likely that they were among the most expensive items produced at Arita.

Two compositions are painted on the body of this bowl. In one, two birds perch on a gnarly rock in front of a flowering chrysanthemum. The fantastic rock is probably intended to represent a Taihu rock, found near Lake Tai in China and often used in Chinese garden designs and depicted in Chinese art. The other composition is a variation of the first, with a peony substituted for the chrysanthemum. The same motifs are repeated on the cover. Bands at the top of the cover and the base are filled with a luxuriant, brocadelike floral arabesque. The knob of the cover is in the form of a lion-dog. The translucence of the pale blue, green, yellow, and red enamels contributes to the delicacy of the painting. The birds are rather awkwardly painted with very full chests, a type that appears frequently in the decoration of Kakiemon-style wares. The disproportionately large flowering plants are also a hallmark of this style.

Related Document Description: Asia Society. Handbook of the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection. New York: Asia Society, [1981], p. 103.
Related Document Description: Meech-Pekarik, Julia. 'Notable Japanese Ceramics.' Apollo (November 1983), p. 436.
AMICA ID: ASIA.1979.234a-b
AMICA Library Year: 1998
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright, Asia Society

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