Period: Edo period (1615–1868)
Date: ca. 1670–90
Medium: Porcelain with overglaze polychrome enamels (Arita ware, Kakiemon type)
Dimensions: H. 15 5/8 in. (39.7 cm); W. 5 3/8 in. (13.7 cm); D. 4 7/8 in. (12.4 cm)
Credit Line: The Harry G. C. Packard Collection of Asian Art, Gift of Harry G. C. Packard, and Purchase, Fletcher, Rogers, Harris Brisbane Dick, and Louis V. Bell Funds, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, and The Annenberg Fund Inc. Gift, 1975
Accession Number: 1975.268.528
This type of brightly colored female figure is a popular example of exotica exported from Japan to Europe in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. It was executed in the Kakiemon style, in which bright, overglaze enamels are applied to the white porcelain surface. This figure is dressed in a fashionable outfit of the day; she is draped in several layers of kimono, which are belted at the waist with a black obi. Characteristic of Japanese fashion, the contours of her body are obscured by the layers of fabric, but the material itself catches the viewer's eye. She wears a jovial expression, and one foot is slightly revealed at the hem of her garment, but her hands are held demurely by her body.
Depictions of such bijin, or beautiful ladies, were also becoming popular in Japan at this time in the newly budding art form of ukiyo-e, or "pictures of the floating world." Ukiyo-e woodblock prints showed various aspects of the pleasure quarters that flourished during this period, including courtesans and onnagata, male kabuki actors who played female roles. The fashions of the day were typically shaped by the denizens of the pleasure quarters, and this figure's attire is probably also styled on such a model.