japonisme: the morse collection

22 October 2006

the morse collection

each of these pieces of pottery are listed with their provenance as saying:
purchased by edward sylvester morse in japan between 1877 and 1892. deposited to the mfa boston in 1892.

morse, who found shards of pottery in the shellmound along with the brachiopods, eventually collected, classified, and catalogued over 5,000 ceramic items during his visits to japan. he became known as “the father of japanese archaeology.”

as geocentric as that sounds, you have to understand that in fact the japanese themselves did not collect or value this work. morse purused the entire country, explored sheds with piles of the stuff in the cobwebby corners, awaiting trash day, and began to notice the different techniques in different parts of the country.

yes, though he was instrumental in both creating the museum for showing this work, and for advocating what eventually became law, that these artifacts could no longer be exported, but not before he had himself exported what appears in the boston mfa today.

to this time, the japanese had not distinguished between "art" and "craft."



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hi, and thanks so much for stopping by. i spend all too much time thinking my own thoughts about this stuff, so please tell me yours. i thrive on the exchange!

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