Japanese Art in the Asia Society Collection

Asia Society

Octagonal Jar
Saga Prefecture
Edo period, 18th century
Porcelain painted with underglaze cobalt blue and overglaze enamels, with traces of gold (Arita ware, Imari style)

In contrast with the blue-and-white jar in the adjacent case, which preserves a Chinese style, this piece is more assertively Japanese. While the architectural setting is Chinese, it is peopled by Japanese courtesans. The fashion and hairstyles of the women reflect the height of courtesan culture in the Kanbun and Genroku eras (1661-1688). Moreover, the combination of underglaze blue with overglaze red and gilt enamels is distinctive of the Imari style and was in turn copied by the Chinese. Jars such as this fed the European taste for Oriental exotica.