This Japanese Hizen Nabeshima Hirado Porcelain Plate with Three Karako Motif has the mark 肥前 鍋島, or Hizen Nabeshima. This gorgeous white kiki or porcelain plate is all handmade. as one can see and just a little bit off center. It is handpainted in the old style of Nabeshima or Hirado with the traditional karako motif with great detail. Some of the photos turned out darker, the lighter photos are most accurate. Karako means Chinese children. it is a traditional painting on Japanese wares that probably goes back hundreds of years and taken from Chinese art, where one might recall seeing vases for example with many children climbing all over them. This is the same concept of the old days. The artwork usually depicts the children running around chasing butterflies and playing; usually one pine tree and one peony at its foot, depicting butterflies fitting around peony flowers and karako boys, in groups of three, five and seven, trying to catch them, all set on white background . This art design dates back to the old days, when the number of children was indicative of social status. In history discussions on Japanese sites, someone shares 'Three children designs were made for commoners. five for higher ranks. and seven children were for imperial'. So, the fact that this plate has three children leads us to believe it is possibly a 20th-century tribute plate, especially with the 'Hizen' included in the mark. Regardless, it is a very beautiful hand painted, with the Hizen Nabeshima Hirado mark. As a sidebar, the double lines seen around this mark are seen in many older and antique Imari and other wares, which I used to think was the sign of a fake, which is absolutely not correct. It is in excellent condition with no cracks or chips but it does have an age flea bit on the back- one that I see.. it is on the lighter side of blue, some of my pictures came out too dark. A gorgeous piece no matter the age, and we could all be wrong as I do not believe we have seen everything and know everything there is to know about Japanese ceramics in the U,S.
The dating is open for debate. There are some of us who think it is early 20th century. It is made in the style of old Edo, but we do not think it is an Edo period piece. I personally believe it has the feel of 1900-1920s in the way it is made, notice the tall foot. It is possible it was made as a tribute plate to Hirado or Nabeshima. Some think it was made in the 1960s, although to me it just has the feel of an older piece. The lady I purchased it from in the U.S. was working in Japan at the time in the 1960s when she purchased it. She had the opportunity to meet with the manager of (one of) the current day Arita- Hirado kilns. She never said it was antique, in fact, she said 'I picked this plate up in Mikawachi, Japan where Hirado porcelain is made. Contrary to popular belief Hirado has no kilns. The kilns are located throughout the Arita and Mikawachi Valley as well as Okawachiyama mountainsides. The porcelain was then shipped from Hirado or Imari ports', which I appreciated at the time as I was just learning. It may have been an attempt at manufacturing style back then (exactly back when is open for discussion), and I thought it was a printed at first it is so perfect, but I have been corrected by several specialists.
Important Update June 23: According to a Japanese seller from Nagasaki, these date to the 19th century.
SIZE: Diameter 6 3/8 inches or 16.19 cm, Height 1 3/8 inches or 3.49 cm
I have recently found some great websites in Japan with history of Japanese porcelains on them starting with Hizen and moving to more current days including some blogs, and will go about choosing which to add to our Favorites link soon if I can find what I did with them!
About Hirado 平戸 Ware
The origins of Hirado ware (it's also called "Mikawachi ware") date back to the building of a kiln by Korean potters that were brought back to this area of Kyushu by landowners who had taken part in Toyotomi Hideyoshi's campaign to the Korean Peninsular at the end of the 16th century. The kiln here was used to fire porcelain for the Hirado clan up to the Meiji Restoration in 1868. As well as running the kiln, the Hirado clan was responsible for finding porcelain clay at nearby Amakusa and for the rapid development of skills and techniques, which are till alive today.
This ware is characterized by its over painting of cobalt on a white porcelain. Ever since the kiln was first fired, pieces were sent as tributes to both the court and warrior families and as a consequence, this china is of the highest quality, whether it be for everyday use or a special decorative item. The degree of care to produce items of such beauty and the delicacy of the work are part of its well established reputation. A great deal of tableware is being produced for use at some of Japan's finest restaurants. Items for use at the tea ceremony are also being made along with incense burner, sake flasks and vases. All are of the highest quality.
The craft is now headed by 14 government recognized Master Craftsmen among the 240 employed by the 35 firms maintaining a craft of class. So much more information is available on the internet and in a few good books.. See the links on our homepage under "Favorites".
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