A Rare Shoki-Imari Butterfly Dish


A Rare Shoki-Imari Butterfly Dish, Attributed to the ‘Hyakken Group’ c.1630-1640. This small deep dish, has a heavily potted base which gradually thins to a slightly everted rim. The well is painted with a large butterfly inflight, perhaps a swallowtail butterfly (papilio xuthus), the most common butterfly in Japan. Butterflies, Chō, is principally associated with women and regularly occur on Japanese porcelain but not normally as the central theme. The vigorously painted stylised border, is of a continuous scrolling design with flowers. This dish, and others of this early period, are often painted very freely in a style that could said to relate to painting on pottery. Indeed, many of the people who set up the porcelain industry in Japan from around 1620 were making pottery. This quality of blue is of particularly high quality for this period. There are few pieces of Shoki-imari in European collections, that is because this early Japanese porcelain was not exported to the West. It was made for the Japanese market and is still highly prized in Japan. Dr.Oliver Impey refers to a dish of this design as attributed to the ‘Hyakken Group’ in his group two 1630-1645, see The Early Kilns of Japan, Arita in the First Half of the Seventeenth Century, References above. The Hyakken porcelain kilns started production just before 1630, and continued until around 1650. Kiln wasters have been excavated, but being precise about the attribution to this kiln is often difficult, as one or two other kilns were producing similar pieces.

See below for more photographs and references.


Two small rim chips.
Diameter 14 cm (5 1/2 inches). Depth 4.2 cm (1 1/2 inches)
Stock number
For a dish of this size and design attributed to the 'Hyakken Group', Impey's group two - 1630-1645, see : The Early Kilns of Japan, Arita in the First Half of the Seventeenth Century (Oliver Impey, Clarendon University Press Oxford 1996. ISBN 0-19-826370-8) plate 20a. Another dish of this design, with the butterfly dark throughout, see : The Azabu Museum of Arts and Crafts, catalogue of 1996, page 87, plate 97 (in Japanese). A set of five of these dishes dated to 1630-1640 are illustrated in : The Kushu Ceramic Museum Collection (The Kyushu Ceramic Museum, Japan March 31st 1987) page 20, plate 15. The title of the book refers to Kushu, when I think they mean Kyushu).