Ceramics Collection at Loosdorf Castle
Masaaki Arakawa, Professor of Gakushuin University
There is a vast collection of exquisite porcelain at Loosdorf Castle which is located in Lower Austria approximately 60km north from Vienna. The majority of the collection was vandalized in the chaotic aftermath of World War II and the shards have been kept at the castle since then.
It is common in the West that crushed and broken ceramics are discarded, but Ferdinand Count and Marquess Ferdinand of Piatti, the lord of the castle during World War II, has treasured them and exhibited them by carefully laying them on the floor of a room in the castle’s museum. He exhibited those ceramic shards as the symbol of the history from his wish that such tragedies will not happen again.
His grandson Alfons Piatti and his wife Verena kept on preserving the installation up to present time. Their son Gabriel has a deep interest in the development and opening of the collection. His joy is that new life arises and connects past, present and future.
This ceramic installation in the castle reflects the Piattis’ deep belief. When looking back on the history of the earlier fortress, there were repeated “destructions” and “plunder”. The castle experienced the Hussite Wars in the first half of the 15th century and the Thirty Years’ War in the 17th century. Even during the time of the Piattis as the lords of the castle since the late 1820s, the stately home was requisitioned by the former Soviet army due to the Allied occupation of Austria and most of the ceramics that had decorated the castle were vandalized at the end of World War II.
Regarding the ceramics collection at Loosdorf Castle, approximately 70 – 80% are of Japanese and Chinese origin. The Japanese shards are mainly so-called “Kinrande” (with overglaze enamel and gold decoration) which is a type of “Old Imari” (also known as “Ko-Imari”) produced between the latter half of the 17th century and the first half of the 18th century in kilns in Arita in Saga Prefecture, the former Hizen Province, northwestern Kyushu island. According to their forms and types, such as vases and large dishes with gold decorations, it seems that they were used for decoration in the castle. Meanwhile, there were also some excellent pieces of Meiji Arita, porcelain produced in Arita in the 19th century during the Meiji Period and exported for the Vienna International Exposition in 1873.
As for the Chinese porcelain shards, many of them are of “Jingdezhen kiln” in the Qing dynasty between the latter half of the 17th century and the early 20th century, porcelain with overglaze polychrome enamel designs of the Kangxi period (1662-1723) and the Qianlong period (1736-1796), in particular.
The remaining 20% consist of various Western ceramics including the Vienna Porcelain Manufactory, the predecessor of the Vienna Porcelain Manufactory Augarten. Among the others are Meissen from Germany, Delft from the Netherlands, Royal Copenhagen from Denmark, Wedgewood from the UK, and Faience from Italy.
Old Imari: Gems of Porcelain born in Japan
In the early Edo period, about 400 years ago, “porcelain” was born in Japan. Many potters came from the Korean Peninsula to Japan as a result of the invasion of Korea led by Hideyoshi Toyotomi, the ruler of Japan at that time. They found “China Stone” (an essential ingredient of true porcelain) in the vicinity of Arita and started to produce porcelain called Old Imari in the early 17th century.
Imari porcelain reached the world’s highest quality after the production techniques of China were introduced in the middle of the 17th century. After the 1650s, the ceramic industry in Arita became as big as manufacture and started to export porcelain outside Japan.
From the late 17th century to the early 18th century, the Western royalty and titled nobility were obsessed with collecting Old Imari ware which suited to their aesthetic sense, and they put up luxurious rooms called porcelain cabinets. The collections by Augustus II the Strong of Saxony in Dresden, Germany, and the Hampton Court Palace in the suburbs of London, the United Kingdom which was once the castle of Mary II of England can be named as the prominent collections.
* The same are Imari porcelain (aka Imari and/or Imari ware) and Arita (aka Arita ware).
Professor in Art History of Gakushuin University in Tokyo since 2008, specialized in Japanese ceramics. Prior to that, he was Chief Curator at Idemitsu Museum of Arts in Tokyo. He was engaged in research activities and planned exhibitions mainly on ceramics from the ancient to the early modern period in Japan, which were on Karatsu, Shino and Oribe ware, Imari ware, and Kenzan ware (the works of Ogata Kenzan), just to name a few. More recently, he has been researching the potter Hazan Itaya. His publications include "Itaya Hazan no Shogai" (Kawade Shobo Shinsha, 2001), "Yakimono no Mikata" (Kadokawa, 2004), "Nihon Bijutsu Zenshu 10 Ogon to Wabi" (Shogakukan, 2013, as a responsible editor), among numerous other works. His other commitments include Commissioner of Japan Ceramic Society, Itaya Hazan Kinen-Kan, and Imaemon Museum.