Spirit keg depicting a Dutchman sitting on top of a barrel, Early 18th Century, Porcelain, Japan
“The spirit keg is modelled as a drunk and cheerful open mouthed Dutch Man sitting astride a barrel, holding a bottle in his raised left hand and a stemmed wine glass in the other. The barrel is decorated on the front with a peony flanked by spraying plants and a ridged hole meant for a tap. The barrel rests on a hollow rectangular base decorated with flowers, volutes, and a zigzag pattern band. The detachable head is surmounted by a cap adorned with some foliate and petal shaped pompoms in iron-red enamels. His cuffs and his coat with buttons and zigzag motifs were all painted in blue and white, which is rarer than other figures decorated in polychrome colours. Ceramic figures on barrels were popular ‘follies’ in the Netherlands and other European countries. A variety of such figures were made in Delft factories in polychrome, as well as in blue and white from the early 18th century. This figure is a Japanese export porcelain example made in imitation of the comparable Dutch Delft wares.”
— Arts Civilizations Museum, Singapore
The Spirit Keg shown in the picture is from early 18th Century Japan; the same period when Chinese kilns produced porcelain in Japanese styles for Europe in the 18th Century. A man dressed in traditional chinese clothes sits on top a barrel as the figure holds a wine cup to hold alcohol and an bottle. A flower is seen on the figure’s hat as well. The figure looks positive; buoyant and chirpy as he pumps his left fist with the bottle to the air. I can infer from this figure’s action that it may be the enthusiasm with alcohol and that it is a homage to the Dutch for something being depicted close to home (- especially as the figure depicts a Dutchman).
The Spirit Keg is painted in blue and white; cobalt blue pigment that is seen in Chinese porcelain. It shows how Japan had filled the gap in Porcelain supply during the 17th Century when China stopped porcelain exportation. Having a a Dutch Figure in the Spirit Keg shows that the Dutch turned to the Arita kilns in southern Japan.
The Keg is also painted with flowers and motifs on the barrel and the square base. The flowers are painted similarly that is used by Arita Kilns which can infer that the Japanese continues to adopt their own style despite having to fill the gap in Chinese porcelain supply and to attract the West buyers.