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Map dish.jpg

A Japanese Arita blue and white porcelain Ko-imari, map dish


Arita, Edo period, circa 1840

Diam. 23.7 cm


Map dishes’, as they are commonly referred to for their illustrations of different maps, can be categorised into three types: Gennai ware, Kutani ware and Arita ware.
This map dish is a unique example of an early Arita ware map dish. The rim is shaped to resemble undulating waves and the image is hand-painted in gosu cobalt. The map shows Kyushu island with the names of its governmental provinces and a three-masted Dutch ship giving a gun-salute, as was practised by the Dutch when entering the harbour of Nagasaki. Underneath the plate is an inscription of a Chinese character reading as ‘inui’. The same character can be found under many Arita and Imari wares. In Nonomura Keiichi’s book Oranda-e imari, this type of dish is considered to be one of the oldest examples of map dishes, and Professor Obashi Kõji, former Director of the Kyushu Ceramic Museum dates this type of dish to around 1840.

In the collection of the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam is a map dish of all of Japan with the names of its provinces (inv. NG 1979-19), dated Tempó period (1830-1849). This period was characterized by internal and external political tensions. The Dutch still were the only Westerners having relations with Japan, but not for much longer. After 1854, under foreign pressure, Japan concluded treaties with the USA, England, Russia, France and the Netherlands to open up several of its harbours for foreign trade.

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