Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

East Asian Languages & Civilizations

First Advisor

David Spafford


During Japan’s Edo period (1615–1868), networks of warriors, merchants, and artisans collaborated in the production and dissemination of art and aesthetics. Existing scholarship discusses how artisans and tastemakers often participated in social networks such as tea schools and poetry clubs that created public spaces where aesthetics were shaped and shared. One critical aspect absent from many studies of Japanese art history is the role that economic relationships, patronage, and marketing played in the development of artistic designs. This study considers the role of merchants and marketing in the development of ceramics designs in the early nineteenth century. Aesthetic communities such as schools of tea facilitated the creation of the economic and business relationships that formed the foundation of art production during the Edo period. Through analysis of the use of seals to distinguish and decorate tea ceramics, the development of brand identity in eighteenth century Banko ware, and the patronage networks of the Eiraku family of potters, this project demonstrates that designs that were previously understood as artistic choices were often directly influenced by marketing decisions such as advertising, price setting, or mass production. These marketing considerations were a significant force driving the development of Japanese aesthetics throughout the nineteenth century. This project offers a new model for studying the origins of and motivations behind Edo period aesthetics, which form the foundation of Japan’s canonized artistic heritage and have influenced artistic traditions globally.


Available to all on Monday, April 10, 2023

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