Japanese / Pair of Covered Hexagonal Jars / Edo period, 17th centuryJapanese
Pair of Covered Hexagonal Jars
Edo period, 17th century

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Creator Nationality: Asian; Far East Asian; Japanese
Creator Name-CRT: Japanese
Title: Pair of Covered Hexagonal Jars
View: Full View
Creation Start Date: 1600
Creation End Date: 1699
Creation Date: Edo period, 17th century
Creation Place: Japan, Saga Prefecture
Object Type: Decorative Arts and Utilitarian Objects
Classification Term: Ceramics
Materials and Techniques: Porcelain painted with overglaze enamels (Arita ware)
Dimensions: Each H. 12 1/2 in. (31.8 cm) with cover; W. 7 1/2 in. (18.4 cm)
AMICA Contributor: Asia Society
Owner Location: New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 1993.006.1a-b-2a-b
Credit Line: Asia Society: Estate of Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller
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.

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--seen here on this pair of hexagonal jars--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 pair of jars exemplifies some of the problems inherent in the use of this classification system. In Western scholarship, jars such as these are often called 'Hampton Court jars' because their shape is the same as that oftwo famous jars known to have been in the collection of Queen Mary (r. 1689-1694) atHampton Court. The jars illustrated here are painted with alternating designs of floral sprays and phoenixes on flowering branches. The translucency of the enamels, the large amount of unpainted space in the composition of each side panel, and the dense floral arabesque used in the decoration of the covers are comparable to those in the decoration of Kakiemon wares. However, two features are different. One is the use of abrown overglaze enamel, which does not appear in the paintings on the majority of Kakiemon-style porcelains; another is the body of these jars, which is darker than the milky-white body of most Kakiemon wares. It seems likely that these jars were made byceramists and enamelers who were contemporaries, and perhaps competitors, of the Kakiemon artists.

AMICA ID: ASIA.1993.006.1a-b-2a-b
AMICA Library Year: 1999
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright Asia Society

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