Japanese Ceramics: Blue & White
New York Asia Week, September 15 27, 2006
Ryo Iida Asian Art and Scholten Japanese Art are pleased to present their fourth exhibition together: Japanese Ceramics: Blue & White, featuring a selection of approximately 50 examples (20 individual and 30 pairs or sets) rendered in the blue & white palette. The show focuses on porcelain produced for the Japanese domestic market and offers a collector-friendly range of sizes, dates and prices; encompassing very small dishes to very large chargers; early porcelain from the mid-17th century to highly polished pieces of the late 19th century Meiji Period; and prices from $300 to $20,000.
Just as Chinese blue & white porcelain has been a favorite in the West for centuries; the Japanese have also long-sought blue & white wares. Before porcelain was actually produced in Japan, Japanese demand for blue and white porcelain wares were met by imports from Jingdezhen province of China. They were called ko sometsuke (old blue and white) and highly appreciated, particularly for use in tea ceremonies. The ko sometsuke wares were intentionally produced with interesting inconsistencies or 'flaws' which were very appealing to the Japanese tea connoisseurs' sensibility. This show includes the set of ten dishes of ko sometsuke type from Tianqi era (1621-1627).
By the early 17th century the Japanese began to produce porcelain in the Arita kilns in Hizen province in northern Kyushu. It is believed that Korean potters had immigrated to Japan and found suitable clay for porcelain in Arita, the site of the earliest kilns.
In the mid 17th century, due to political and economic instability in China, the Dutch began to import Japanese porcelain from the port of Imari, thereafter; the porcelain from this area came to know as Imari (in Japan as well). Soon fine Japanese porcelain wares became recognized and highly appreciated by Europeans. Colored porcelain wares were also developed and they were in high demand both inside and outside Japan.
From mid 17th to mid-18th centuries, large quantities of porcelain were produced according to European specifications and exported. There are still number of fine examples of export Imari porcelain wares in the West. While export Imari porcelain wares were made to fit European taste, so called ko-Imari or old Imari wares were produced for domestic demand. This exhibition includes over 80 items of ko-Imari wares produced for the Japanese domestic market.
The earliest example is ai Kutani type dish decorated with a bird perched on a rock (circa 1650). The bird in the center is skillfully painted encircled by the band of stylized bamboo shoots. This dish is a particularly good example illustrating the influence of the Kano School style of painting on the painting techniques of Imari artists.
The Genroku (1688-1703) era is generally considered a high point in the quality of the production of Imari wares. This exhibition includes several pieces from that period. One superb example is a pair of small dishes decorated with a cluster of chestnuts; the other is a small bowl decorated with a forest of pine trees. Both are finely painted with desirable shade of the cobalt blue color on spotless white back ground. They were probably made for those of a high social status of mid-Edo period.
From Horeki (1753-1765) era to Bunsei (1819-1829) era, Imari kilns had developed and were able to produce numerous porcelain pieces. Due to the quantities of the pieces surveyed, one can relatively easily find good quality Imari pieces at an affordable price range. This may be one of the reasons that there are many Imari collectors in Japan today. One outstanding piece from this period is the wine pot with lid and handle decorated with tako karakusa (scrolling arabesques of octopus tentacles). The other example is the pair of shallow bowls decorated with bamboo and flower bands. We are pleased to show over 12 items (including 5 sets) from this period.
Although production of blue and white wares begins its decline in the 19th century, between Tempo (1830-1843) era to the end of Edo period (which ends in 1868), very good quality chargers were produced- perhaps due to mastering the technical skill needed to produce larger works. The charger, tiger looking up plum blossom is an outstanding piece for its excellent brushwork. The show also includes two sets of five soba choko (noodle sauce cups) from this period.
The demand for the porcelain was high during late Edo period as the use of porcelain had spread into ordinary people in big cities. Several existing kilns tried to produce porcelain to compete with the kilns of Hizen province in Kyushu. One successful kiln was Seto in Owari province. The set of five dishes with tiger and bamboo is from this kiln that known for its rich translucent glaze.
All the pieces included in the exhibition were made for serving food, and in all likelihood were actually used by their owners. While earthenware, stoneware and other clay bodies or color palettes may not be considered appropriate with certain combinations with food in Japan, blue & white porcelain wares are considered to be in harmony with virtually all types of foods. And while European and Americans collected Chinese and Japanese blue & white porcelain insatiably centuries ago, so too did the Japanese, where it remains integral to every day culture of Japan today.
The exhibition opens Friday, September 15 and continues through Wednesday, September 27th. Scholten Japanese Art, located at 145 West 58th Street, Suite 6D, is open Monday through Friday, and some Saturdays, 11am to 5pm, by appointment. To schedule an appointment please call 212.585.0474. For the duration of the exhibition the gallery will have general open hours Monday Saturday, 11 am to 5pm.