Imari Ware: Karakusa Design

Toguri Museum of Art

poster for Imari Ware: Karakusa Design

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Tableware today is often decorated with arabesque designs known in Japan as “karakusa.” As the English name suggests, this very old pattern originated in the Middle East; the earliest forms of arabesque were designs taken from the date palm, lotus and other plants. The pattern was transmitted to Japan through China and the Korean peninsula, and was adopted not only in Buddhist decorative arts but in other crafts and industries as well. In porcelain making, which started in Arita in the early 17th century, the karakusa design was incorporated very quickly as a way of decorating the edges of dishes, and there are examples in which it was used as the main motif, as well. Beautiful variations developed, including the hana-karakusa (flower arabesque), tako-karakusa (octopus arabesque) and a finely detailed arabesque of tiny leaves known as mijin-karakusa. Over time, the karakusa motif evolved from being merely decorative to carry auspicious meaning; continuous, connected patterns came to be seen as symbols of longevity, fertility and continuity of family line. From the 18th century, the karakusa arabesque was a mainstay design in Arita ware, popular with buyers who wished for eternal good fortune, and eventually spread to the common people. In this exhibition, we present about 70 examples of Arita ware with the karakusa design, spanning from the early 17th century through the first half of the 19th century, exploring how this engaging design enriched lifestyles from the Edo era on.

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from July 02, 2016 to September 22, 2016

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