Japanese Arita Blue and White Teapot, Edo Period (1603-1868), C. 1720
Japanese Arita blue and white teapot, Edo Period (1603-1868), c.1720, of octagonal form with octagonal footrim and decorated in underglaze cobalt blue with a seascape containing European ships and a small rowing boat, the neck with four panels containing flowerheads, the curved handle with spiny sea creatures, the domed lid with dolphins and a border of stiff leaves, the base with Chenghua mark. Subject to being available
Height: 12cm. (4 6/8 in.), length: 19cm. (7 1/2in.)
Three small hairlines, firing fault to inside of lid, very slight wear to end of spout.
Christies sold a matching teapot on the 7th July 2016 as lot 59; the buyer paid £18,500; since this time prices for Japanese porcelain have increased.
A similar teapot can be found in the collection of the Groninger Museum, Groningen (1983-96), and is illustrated in Jörg, Christiaan J.A., Fine and Curious: Japanese Export Porcelain in Dutch Collections, Hotei, 2003, illus.321.
Possibly decorated after the engravings of Olfert Dapper (c.1635-89); for a teapot with decoration also linked to Dapper's work see the Ashmolean Collection (EA1978.759)
The Sakoku policy of the Tokugawa Shogunate has frequently been misrepresented; far from being closed off to the outside world, eighteenth century Japan enjoyed a healthy circulation of imported commodities including European prints. The scene depicted on this teapot likely drew inspiration from one such print on a naval theme by Olfert Dapper, a Dutch physician who wrote extensively on geography and history (though never travelled overseas)
Arita, the centre of Japanese porcelain production where this teapot was manufactured, is conveniently located close to the port town of Nagasaki, where Dutch and Chinese ships did their trade. The European sailing ships were markedly different from the Chinese junks or Japanese vessels to which people were accustomed, and so aside from facilitating trade, these comparatively massive seacrafts captured the imagination of many Japanese artists and writers who saw them as a symbol of Western technology and oddity (Japanese entry to the ships was prohibited by Shogunal authorities).
Consequently, Western ships feature in many contemporary sketches, prints and books, though their appearance in porcelain design is rarer.