The Hizen Vase, Part 2: The Puzzle

In our last post we talked about the discovery of the intriguing “Hizen Vase” folio and the illustrations contained within it, proposing a theory that the shapes of these illustrations were designed to fit together in an overlapping design. With the entire folio digitised and with our puzzling hats on it’s time to put this theory to the test…

MS1705-01_vase-isolatedWhat might sound like an easy task – these “puzzles” only have 21 pieces after all – is made harder by the intended output for these designs. Whereas most puzzles are designed to fit together on a flat surface, these illustrations are designed to fit round the shape of the vase. As the vase’s shape changes, so do the number of designs required to wrap round it – near the foot it may only take 3 or 4 designs to wrap round fully, whereas the main body may need 6 or 7 (and even then perhaps larger designs than those at the base) to do the same.

We worked on both sets of illustrations side-by-side and used each set to help build up the other, remembering that they were mirror images of each other of course! The consistent numbering was especially helpful with the spacial relationships between the illustrations – the placement of numbers 11, 12 and 13 in the green-numbered set are mirrored (in both senses of the word) in numbers 11, 12 and 13 in the red-numbered set, for example.

Due to the 2D<>3D issues mentioned above the fit in the following images is a little loose(!) but nevertheless they prove our theory was correct: these illustrations were designed to create an intricate overlapping design.

Click image for a larger version
Click image for a larger version