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Japanese Porcelains
Japanese Porcelains

The story of porcelain production in Japan is like a late-starting star on a rapid and flourishing ascent to the center of both the domestic and international stages. An influx of Korean potters to northern Kyushu, the southernmost island of Japan, following Toyotomi Hideyoshi's invasion of Korea (1592-1598), and the discovery of suitable clay in the region, enabled the launching of porcelain industries in the early 17th century. Most of the porcelain production in the 17th century was concentrated in a small town called Arita in northern Kyushu, even though the largest group is known as Imari ware, after the port, Imari, from which porcelain was shipped to other regions. In fact, Arita was home not only to leading porcelain manufacturers but also to Karatsu ware, the popular glazed stoneware.

Within Japan, porcelain, especially blue-and-white Imari ware, fast became a staple of everyday tableware by the mid-17th century, and was even used in the tea ceremony alongside stoneware. Manufacture of enameled porcelain, like Ko-Kutani ware for the general public and Nabeshima ware for the local elite, advanced during the 17th century as well. More significantly, Japanese porcelain penetrated and rapidly dominated the international market - including China, Southeast Asia, and Europe - by the latter half of the 17th century. Indeed, although the Dutch initially turned to Japan to replace its disrupted trade with China, European consumers quickly came to favor Japanese products. They were particularly taken with brightly enameled pieces, such as the products of the Kakiemon workshop, which seem to have been destined primarily for export.

Continually drawing from contemporary and antique Chinese ceramics for inspiration, Japanese potters also adapted the techniques and style of Japanese textiles and painting, and developed a keen sensitivity to distinctive design that set their creations apart.

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Octagonal Jar

Octagonal Jar

Storage Jar

Drum-Shaped Pillow

Covered Bowl




Two Lion-Dogs

Two Female Figures

Seated Female Figure

Three Mandarin Ducks
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