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Japanese blue and white kakiemon style lobed dish, late 17th century, Edo Period, with gently barbed rim glazed brown, decorated in underglaze cobalt blue to the centre with two figures on a cliffy riverbank gazing at a waterfall from beneath a pine tree, the wide border decorated with a continuous scene of two tigers bounding across rockwork in a bamboo grove with blossoming plum and other flowering plants, the reverse decorated with a loosely scrolling karakusa motif and a cursive fuku mark (‘happiness’) to the base.
There is a dish of identical design illustrated in Jörg, Christiaan, ‘Fine and Curious, Japanese Export Porcelain in Dutch Collections’, p.147, no.162. Another slightly larger example is illustrated in ‘Porcelain for Palaces: The Fashion for Japan in Europe 1650-1750’, p. 158, no. 133, formerly in the collection of the Duchess of Portland.
Tigers are not native to Japan, so although imported Chinese art featured the beasts and designs with tigers became especially popular among samurai classes, Japanese artists could only work from life using cats, the closest available alternative. Consequently, tigers in early Japanese art tend to look less ferocious than their Chinese counterparts and are more often shown at play or in poses more commonly associated with domesticated cats.