A rare blue and white Arita porcelain carp wall vase

Late 17th century, Japan

L14 x W9 x H31 cm. L5.51 x W3.54 x H12.2 inches

The carp leaps upwards, the tail enveloped by swirls of water, the head breaking through a strong downward current. The fish is modelled with open mouth, the body decorated with scales all coloured with washes of underglaze blue. The reverse is flat and the porcelain glazed white with a hole in the middle of the top half for hang on a wall. The vase opening is not visible from the front.

The carp is very popular in Japanese art, the leaping carp symbolising strength, perseverance, and determination, all on Boy’s Day (Tano no sekku) in May when boys fly carp-shaped kites and streamers. The symbolism originated from China, where early myths related that if a carp succeeded in swimming all the way up the Yellow River it would turn into a dragon.

Similar Examples

‘Mandarin and Menagerie- Chinese and Japanese Export Ceramic Figures, Volume I: The James E. Sowell Collection’, M. Cohen and W. Motley, CA Design 2008, pl. 8.1, p.134. A pair of arita leaping carp.

‘Porcelain for Palaces- The Fashion for Japan in Europe 1650-1750’, Oriental Ceramic Society 1990, pl.178-179, p.189.

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