A type of Arita ware, Kakiemon is delicate porcelain with a distinctive palette. The name is derived from a family of potters and enamellers working in Arita, who are traditionally believed to have introduced overglaze enameling on porcelain to Japan in the 1640s. The extremely fine, milky-white body (nigoshide) was believed to have been exclusive to the Kakiemon kiln, although this is now disputed. Wares include small dishes, bottles, bowls, and vases, many of which are of geometric form.
DECORATION AND FORMS
Although the Kakiemon kilns produced blue-and white porcelain, they are generally associated with wares expertly painted in a palette of iron-red, cerulean-blue, turquoise-green, yellow, aubergine, and gold. These delicate porcelains form a counterpoint to the heavier Imari wares.
Often asymmetrical, the designs enhance the milky-white body of the best Arita porcelain. Kakiemon wares are usually painted with natural themes: birds in branches, flying squirrels, the “quail and millet” design, the “Three Friends of Winter” (pine, prunus, and bamboo), trailing flowers, and banded hedges. Human subjects are rare; some have been given titles such as the “Woman and the Nightingale” and the “Hob in the Well”, the latter a design based on the story of a Chinese sage who saved his friend who had fallen into a large fishbowl.
The chrysanthemum, the national flower of Japan, is a very common form for Kakiemon wares, as is the pointed bracket-shape. Many Arita wares, especially the Kakiemon type, are hexagonal or octagonal in form. An iron-brown dressing (fuchi-beni) was applied to the edges of many Kakiemon porcelains to embellish them and to protect the rims from being chipped; this was probably introduced around the mid-17th century, following the example set by Chinese potters. Kakiemon porcelain was arguably the most influential Japanese porcelain in Europe; after it was exported to Europe at the end of the 17th century, the forms and decoration were copied by many major factories including Meissen, Saint Cloud, Chantilly, Chelsea, and Bow.
• BODY a pure milky-white (nigoshide)
• GLAZE almost colorless
• PALETTE iron red, cerulean blue, turquoise, brown, yellow, and gold; black is used for detailing; iron-
brown edges (fuchi-beni) are typical
• FORMS geometric; dishes are hexagonal, octagonal, or decagonal
• DECORATION mainly flower motifs and only rarely figures; asymmetrical and sparse; popular patterns include the “quail and millet”, the “Three Friends of Winter” (pine, bamboo, and prunus), banded hedges, flying squirrels, and the ho-ho bird (phoenix)
• COPIES made in many European factories from the end of the 18th century, including Meissen, Chantilly, Saint Cloud, Chelsea, and Bow
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