400th Anniversary for Arita Ware

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A Pair of Matched Japanese Edo Period Arita Blue and White Chargers 
Mackinnon Fine Furniture Collection

Technically, we are a year late.  Arita ware, also known as Arita-yaki, has its origins in 1616, when a Korean farmer, Yi Sam-pyeong, discovered white clay kaolin in Arita and used it to create Japan’s first porcelain.  Arita was the first place to produce ceramics in Japan.

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A Japanese Edo Period Arita Blue and White Charger 
Mackinnon Fine Furniture Collection

After the discovery, a number of kilns opened in the area and it soon became a source for Japanese export porcelain destined for Europe.  The Dutch East India Company began exporting the porcelain in 1653.  The export pieces were often made in Western shapes and forms and incorporating Chinese decoration.

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A  Japanese Edo Period Arita Blue and White Chargers 
Mackinnon Fine Furniture Collection

One example is Chinese Kraak decoration–the name derives from the Portuguese ships, Carracks, that transported the porcelain.  The decoration is distinguished by its cobalt blue underglaze and foliated radial panels.  Traditional motifs, such as stylised flowers, decorate these panels, with abstracted designs in between each one.

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A Japanese Edo Period Arita Blue and White Chargers 
Mackinnon Fine Furniture Collection

We recently acquired several Japanese Arita chargers featuring Chinese Kraak decoration.  The one pictured above is particularly interesting as it bears close resemblance to a charger at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

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A  Japanese Edo Period Arita Blue and White Chargers
Rijksmuseum Collection

The example at the Rijksmuseum is shown here.  Both chargers feature a jardiniere of flowers within a fenced garden in the centre and rims decorated with Chinese ‘Kraak’ style panels featuring flowers and precious objects.

We enjoy acquiring Chinese and Japanese porcelain made for the export market as it formed an important part of the English interior in the 18th century.  These pieces in turn served as inspiration for Western designs in furniture, porcelain, silver, and other decorative arts.

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