A pair of Arita porcelain cats
Circa 1700, Japan
Height: 27 cm, 5 inches
Enamelled in the Imari palette, each cat is formed as the same model – rather than being mirror images of one another. Their bodies, faces and ears are decorated in overglaze patches of iron-red and dark aubergine, and their collars are gold over pink (where the gold is worn); the long tails curl around their haunches and are tipped with iron-red. Their right front paws are raised as though washing – a traditional pose of the manekineko or ‘inviting cat’ that is believed to bring good fortune. At the end of the seventeenth and beginning of the eighteenth century, pairs of porcelain animals – particularly cats, tigers, deer and dogs – along with birds were particularly popular export wares from Japan.
La Maladie de Porcelain: East Asian Porcelain from the Collection of Augustus the Strong, Eva Strober, Edition Leipzig, 2001: pages 208 & 209 describe and illustrate two dogs of about the same date and size, and with similar decoration.