DATE: ca. 1880 (made)
PLACE: Japan (made)
MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES: Porcelain with overglaze enamels

This teapot is a type of Japanese porcelain known as Hirado, a name which derives from its production in the Hirado kilns of Nagasaki. Hirado wares are generally characterised by light and slightly translucent cobalt pigments, which highlight the volumes and detailed modelling of the porcelain. During the early 19th century, the economic structure of Japan’s feudal system began to disintegrate, which forced the Hirado kilns to seek financial support through export contracts with the Dutch East India Company. By the 1840s, there was a well-established trade in Hirado porcelain with the West, where such pieces were highly sought after by wealthy buyers. Although early Hidrado wares were painted with simple landscape scenes and natural motifs, Western tastes encouraged more inventive and sculptural forms, such as animals and mythical figures with applied decoration. This teapot is modelled to resemble Hotei, the Buddhist god of laughter and contentment, and one of the Shichi-fuku-jin, or ‘Seven Gods of Luck’. He is often depicted with a smiling face and bulging stomach, holding a Chinese fan called an oogi, which is said to grant wishes, and a cloth bag on his back that represents his wandering lifestyle.