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A Rare Kakiemon Model of an Immortal on a Tortoise
Sold by order of the Trustees of the Thirlestane Castle Trust for the benefit of the continuing restoration of the castle
A Rare Kakiemon Model of an Immortal on a Tortoise

EDO PERIOD (1660-1670)

A Rare Kakiemon Model of an Immortal on a Tortoise
Edo Period (1660-1670)
The moulded body decorated in the early enamelled palette of iron-red, yellow, blue, turquoise and black enamels, the creature with a hexagonal and dotted geometric pattern in the manner of a tortoiseshell, stylised waterweed around its back
12cm. high
The Earls of Lauderdale, and thence by descent.
This figure may once have enlivened the Duchess of Lauderdale's closet at Ham House, Surrey, in the 17th century. For a discussion of her collection see Peter Thornton, "The Furnishing and Decoration of Ham House", Funiture History Journal, vol.XVI, 1980

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Lot Essay

One of only four known, this extraordinary model is important and invaluable in the dating of early enamelled wares. Dr. Oliver Impey notes in the catalogue Porcelain For Palaces1, that the documents of the V.O.C2 record that in 1665 the Nieuwenhoven was sent to Holland from Batavia bearing 19,229 pieces of porcelain from a cargo brought from Japan in the Amerongen. Among these were several figures including "295 small statuettes on tortoises". This helps to establish that the palette of enamels on the figure was made as early as 1664.

He further mentions3 that it is also known from the inventory of Burghley House, taken in 1688, that the famous "wrestling boys" and the pair of elephants were in the house before 1688, establishing the fully blown Kakiemon palette, as existing then. He therefore concludes that the dates of early enamel wares made for export fell between 1659 (the commencement of the trade) and 1688, and in all probability a more likely end date would lie in the 1670's.

The only other known examples of this model are in Burghley House, Lincolnshire (see above), the Kassel Collection in Germany and a private collection in Japan. A mould for the hexagonal pattern body was excavated in Arita by Shigeko Tanaka and is now in the Arita Ceramics Museum.

The tortoise with weed growing from its shell, in Japan known as the minogame and in the West the so-called "flaming tortoise". The design became popular in European Kakiemon style ceramics in the 18th century, such as Chelsea. For an example of this design see Porcelain for Palaces.4

1. Oliver Impey, Porcelain for Palaces: The Fashion for Japan in Europe, 1650-1750, (London, 1990), p.177
2. T. Volker, The Japanese Porcelain Trade of the Dutch EAst India Company after 1683, 'Mededelingen van het Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde, Leiden', 13, 1959
3. Oliver Impey, Japanese Export Porcelain, (Catalogue of the Collection of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford), (Amsterdam, 2002), p.14
4. Oliver Impey, Porcelain for Palaces, op. cit., no.330, p.281

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