Originally produced in the middle of the 17th century in the area of Okawachiyama, near Arita, Nabeshima porcelain was named for the Nabeshima clan who financed and oversaw its production for their own use and profit, and would regularly gift exceptional pieces to members of the elite aristocracy in a bid to gain favour with their fellow feudal lords and the ruling Shogunate of the time.
Catering to the requirements and aesthetic tastes of Japan’s elite classes, Nabeshima porcelain artisans were given special favour over other Arita ceramicists and were able to make use of the highest quality clay and premium pigments not generally available to their mainstream competitors.
In a departure from the largely standardised Chinese influenced designs seen in most other early Arita porcelain wares, the decoration on Nabeshima pieces drew on uniquely Japanese influences, with layout and pattern taking many cues from classical motifs used in textile design.
The studios that produced these designs were strictly controlled by the Nabeshima clan and were forbidden from reproducing their work on pieces destined for use by the general population.
As with Kakiemon wares, it is generally agreed upon that true Nabeshima porcelain does not utilize gilding in its decoration, and typically makes use of a comparatively restricted palette consisting of underglaze blue to outline the designs, with red, green and yellow overglaze enamels being reserved for the details. Although well known for their polychrome designs, Nabeshima porcelain wares were also painted in a monochromatic blue and white variation.
Production of mainline Nabeshima porcelain continued under the watchful eye of the Nabeshima clan until the Meiji period in the late 19th century, when political reforms put an end to the feudal system that had dominated Japan to that point.
Now highly valued and collectable, original 17th, 18th century and even 19th century Nabeshima pieces often attract eye watering sums at auction, due to their rarity, quality and significance within Japan’s art and design traditions.
One can still find modern day descendants and imitators of the original artisans creating pieces in the traditional style elsewhere in Japan to the present day.
Kazari stocks a small range of contemporary and 20th century Nabeshima style porcelain wares, with an emphasis placed on quality and originality of design.