Kakiemon elephants

From Japan, Edo period, late 17th century AD

These splendid elephants are made from porcelain with a milky-white glaze called nigoshide, decorated with brilliant overglaze enamels in yellow, red, green and blue -- in the so-called ‘Kakiemon’ style.

Many such models of animals, such as dogs, cats, deer, boars and horses, were made as ornaments for European mantelpieces.

Real elephants would not have been seen in Japan at this time, and these unusual examples were likely ordered specially by merchants of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) for export.

Porcelain making began in Japan relatively late, in the 1610s. For several decades around the fall of the Ming dynasty in 1644, production in China was curtailed, giving an opportunity for Japanese makers temporarily to take over the trade.

From about 1660 potters near Arita in Kyushu began Kakiemon-style decoration in overglaze coloured enamels and these elephants date from the period 1660-90.

Japan

Video

The Japanese islands have been inhabited for more than 30,000 years.

Japan world culture

Edo period


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More information

Bibliography

L. Smith, V. Harris and T. Clark, Japanese art: masterpieces in (London, The British Museum Press, 1990)

Dimensions

Height: 35.5 cm
Width: 44 cm
Depth: 14.5 cm

 

Museum number

Asia JA 1980.3-25.1-2

JCR9237;JCR9238

 

Garner Collection

Location

Find in the collection online

Related products

Book

A History of the World in 100 objects

 
By Neil MacGregor

Accompanies the BBC Radio 4 series




This object features in A History of the World in 100 objects


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