Small Bowl with a Big Story

Kakiemon bowlA small porcelain bowl was recently given to Scripps College by Anthony Elias and Patricia Lords Ghosn, of Upland, Calif., and the Worldbridge Foundation. Although modest in size, it reveals much about Japanese history, Oriental ceramics, and modern collecting.

According to Professor Bruce Coats, the bowl was probably made in the 18th century at kilns located near Arita, an area on Kyushu Island in western Japan.

While the College has a large collection of contemporary ceramics, this is the first example of 18th century Kakiemon to be received as a gift. It will undoubtedly be used in exhibitions on Japanese arts and on European culture of the 18th century.

The Scripps bowl, about six inches in diameter, was initially wheel-thrown and then pressed into a mold where it was given an overall eightlobe shaped rim and a raised spiral impression on the interior. Its creamy white glazed surface was decorated with red, green, blue, and black enamels to depict sprigs of wild pinks and small butterflies. After several firings, gold accents were brushed onto the designs.

Such Kakiemon became highly fashionable in Europe during the 18th century, and great quantities of Japanese porcelains were exported by Dutch traders to France and England, where they were prized possessions in palaces and country houses. Coats conjectures: “Such a piece of export ware might have been used in Europe to serve fresh berries in cream. Inside the bowl, at the bottom, a small blossom was painted to delight a diner as she finished her dessert.”

The full story of the bowl can be found on the Scripps website at


« »