A SET OF FIVE JAPANESE ARITA BLUE AND WHITE PORCELAIN 'DUTCHMEN' BOWLS WITH COVERS
Early 19th century
Each decorated with Dutchmen with walking sticks in a continuous landscape.
Diam. 11.5 cm
Height with lid 8.5 cm
Bowls with the ever-recurring decorations of Dutchmen and Dutch VOC (treasure) ships were intended mainly for the Japanese market, but in view of the numbers found in Holland, the Dutch apparently also fancied them. In the 18th century the images still more or less resembled contemporary Dutchmen but in the 19th century, the images retained much earlier 17th or 18th-century clothing and therefore became more and more exotic if not clownish. Making fun of strangers surely is an ingrained trait in many cultures. But the “Dutch” were certainly not only depicted because of their strangeness. It would be good to remember the Japanese believe in raihõshin, gods from an unknown land beyond the sea who bring happiness. Well into the 19th-century annual festivals in seaside areas were held, most notably the namahage festival, referring to big, red-haired, blue-eyed foreigners who were imagined to be gods from eternal lands beyond the sea bringing happiness and prosperity at “the arrival of their treasure ship” (Õminato takara no nyũsen).