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An important set of five 17th century Early Enamelled Ware (Kakiemon related) Arita abalone shell-shaped mukōzuke dishes, brilliantly enamelled in overglaze blue, green and black with a flowering Himalayan blue poppy and two seed-heads issuing from the scalloped dish edge

Arita, Kakiemon related ware, Hizen province, Japan
early Edo period (third quarter 17th century)
circa 1650-75

The present set of five abalone shaped dishes enamelled in overglaze blue, green and black with flowering poppies sprouting from the scalloped dish edge represent a brilliantly executed production of bright, luminous colouring in the very early enamelled ware of Japan.

An identical single example to the present set was acquired by the Ashmolean Museum (Oxford, UK) in 1989 (Story Fund 1989.168) classified by Dr. Oliver Impey as “Early Enamelled Ware - Kakiemon related, Arita, mid-late 17th century”.

These extraordinarly rare early enamelled blue poppy dishes have been catagorized both as Ko-Kutani and early Kakiemon lineage.


Though the execution of the poppy design differs very slightly on each dish, the pattern on the reverse of each dish is clearly executed by the same enamellers hand, making this a true set of five dishes which have remained together for some three and a half centuries.


The early enamelling workshops of Japan remain to this day largely a mystery, though there is no doubt of the impact these brilliant colours on crisp white porcelain made in The West. A porcelain sensation verging on obsession - aptly named a maladie de porcelaine -  erupted amongst the noble families of Europe following the arrival of these never-before-seen Japanese coloured wares aboard Dutch East India trading ships in the 1660s.


Impey suggests that the "major stimulus to the first large orders for Japanese porcelain for Holland must have been the availability of enamelled ware of high quality. We can deduce that the case of samples send to the Heeren Zeventien on 12 October 1657...must have contained mainly enamelled ware, because the orders for Holland of the next year were for coloured pieces - these were shipped on 15 October 1660"...Chinese enamelled wares were uncommon in Europe in the mid-17th century, and their enamels were on the dark side; the Japanese enamelled porcelain with its brilliant colours must have caused a sensation, for it was even more colourful that majolica." (Impey, p.57)


The brightness and translucency of the blue and green enamels on the present set of poppy dishes was indeed a remarkable achievement and it is most probable that the present set of dishes was retained for the Japanese market and not exported to the West. The delicate asymmetrical balance between the crisp white space and brilliant colour was to the Japanese taste, and this set of five 'tasting dishes' (mukōzuke) was likely made for the Japanese high Tea Ceremony.


The early enamelled wares of Japan do not closely resemble Chinese overglaze-decorated wares; as Impey states "most particularly is this noticeable in the Japanese use of overglaze cobalt blue, which was not in use in China until considerably later" (Porcelain for Palaces, p.117). The blue overglaze enamel is celebrated in this set of dishes; the green and black pigments only used to highlight the brilliant blue enamel of the poppies and their leaves. We are also proud to offer another example of the present abalone poppy dishes which appears to be an earlier prototype using only blue overglaze enamel picked out in black highlighting. Please see An exceptionally rare enamelled blue poppy mukōzuke currently also in the collection of Baraset House.



12.9 cm long x 9 cm wide x 2.9 cm high

An important set of 17th C enamelled blue poppy mukōzuke dishes early Kakiemon

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    416 666 6295



    See Impey, Oliver, Japanese Export Porcelain: Catalogue of the Collection of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (Amsterdam: Hotei Publishing, 2002), pg.93, no.97 (Story Fund, 1989.168) for the only other known recorded example, categorized as Early Enamelled Ware; Kakiemon-related.

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