During the time of the flowering of Japanese porcelain around the middle of the 17th century Europe was on the dawn of the ‘Age of Enlightenment’. The grand houses and palaces of Europe were to be decorated throughout with paintings and exotic crafts, among which Japanese porcelain known as Kakiemon ware, with its distinctive red enamelling over a milky white opaque glaze was among the most desired. The Kakiemon family of potters remained active from the 17th century onward and still thrive today. Early pieces are now highly regarded throughout the world. The 1688 inventory of the Burghley House collection of the Earl of Exeter includes a number of pieces still in the collection and clearly identifiable today, some of which are believed to have found their way into the British Museum. Queen Mary’s great collection kept at Kensington and Hampton Court Palaces believed to have been amassed in 1689 was mostly dispersed after the Queen’s death, contained significant pieces recorded in a 1696 inventory.
The Japanese porcelain industry flourished before the secrets of porcelain manufacture were discovered in Europe, and the shapes and designs of Kakiemon ware had a widespread and lasting effect on later European wares such as Chantilly, Meissen, Chelsea, and Bow. In addition to table ware and decorative vases, tea and coffee pots, the Kakiemon family made figures of humans, beauties, wrestlers, children, and animals. Some of these pieces would be mounted in ormolu stands and given pride of place in European mansions and palaces.
The design of this lot is probably based on the old traditional ritual ceremony in Japan, chakko no gi, in which the boy wears hakama [Japanese male skirt] for the first time on the go board when he reaches his fifth year of age. This tradition is still observed in the Japanese Imperial Family. It is also said that the go board symbolises the world.
For a similar example without ormolu in the Kurita Museum collection, see Kurita Hideo, Kurita Collection, (Tokyo, 1967), p.238-9, no. 111; and go to http:/www.kurita.or.jp/imari/catalog/index.htm (ref. no. 40).
For a similar example without ormolu, see Vincent L’Herrou Galerie Théorème, Europe-Asie Echanges et Influences, exhibition cat. 20 October – 20 November 1994, (Paris, 1994), front cover and p.2-3.
For further examples see Oliver Impey, Japanese Export Porcelain – Catalogue of The Collection of The Ashmolean Museum Oxford, (Amsterdam, 2002), no. 188, (for further example in the Reitlinger Collection); Japan Society, New York, The Burghley Porcelains: An Exhibition from the Burghley House Collection and Based on the 1688 Inventory and 1690 Devonshire Schedule (New York, 1986), pl.94, and for an example in the Kyushu Ceramic Museum see Kyushu Ceramic Museum, The Shibata Collection, Part V: The Creation and Development of the Enpo Style, (Arita, 1997).
The previous owners Mr and Mrs Jack Linsky (Jack and Belle) were important collectors who left much of their collection to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. They started to assemble their distinguished collection of European 18th-century porcelains in the 1920s. For more information about their collection in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, see Polly Cone, The Jack and Belle Linsky Collection in The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Metropolitan Museum of Art Series), (New York, 1984) and go to the museum website:
For an Arita model boat in the collection of Her Majesty the Queen is mounted in ormolu with similar fish from the mid-18th century. See John Ayers, Oliver Impey, et al., Porcelain for Palaces: The Fashion for Japan in Europe 1650-1750, (London, 1990), p. 163, no. 140.