We love uncovering the connections between items in the Archive, not least in the Art & Design folios – our long-standing Pairing Up series is testament to that – and sometimes they can really take us by surprise. That was certainly the case when we stumbled across an artwork sporting some very familiar design elements – ones we never really expected to see anywhere else…
A little while ago now (time really does fly!) we wrote about the Hizen Vase folio, a collection of unique overlapping illustrations which we digitally pieced together and later found out had actually been put into production. We’d always assumed that these illustrations, and the special layout created from them, had been specifically crafted for the two vases but in SD 1705/MS1734 we came across another artwork in this style, though admittedly with a more sparse collection of panels than the Hizen’s intricately interwoven affair. It wasn’t just the use of these panels in the overall design that caused us to do a double-take either – the content of the Japanese-inspired scenes, depicted in blue and white, looked so familiar that we decided to check them against those in the Hizen Vase folio.
The presence of Mount Fuji made spotting the first shared scene quite easy; they also happened to be the designs with the strongest similarities despite the wildly different outline shape. By tuning these shapes out and focusing on the scenes themselves we also spotted another pair of designs with more than a passing resemblance to each other.
Unfortunately the positioning of the other three panels prevented any real attempt to match their designs to those in the folio, but the shapes of the panels themselves – as with the two on the main body of the vessel – certainly echoed the style of those used to such great effect on the Hizen Vase.
We’ll probably never know if the Hizen Vase directly inspired the design for this ewer or whether they both took their inspiration from something else – however, we’d certainly love to know whether this piece was put into production. Unfortunately, just like last time, the artwork has no marks that can help us find references to it elsewhere in the Archive. We all love a good mystery though… right?!