Bark Cloisonne Vase
In the third quarter of the 19th Century, the Japanese tried a unique experiment using pottery as the base for cloisonne` work. The Seto potters probably started this around 1868, and Kin-kou-san and others soon followed suit. However, this type of cloisonne` can hardly be said to have been successful. For one thing, the pottery base necessitated that the items be fired at low temperatures and therefore very soft enamels had to be used resulting in a matte surface easily scratched and worn. The brilliancy that is one of the beautiful features of Japanese Cloisonne` could not be achieved. Also, the mortality rate was high during manufacture. If the pottery was fired at too hot a temperature, it would crack and thus be useless and all the time spent decorating the item would be lost. For these reasons, this type of cloisonne` is considered quite rare. It was only made for a short period of time and not much of it remains . . . rather, when it is found it will usually be in private collections or museums.
By definition this vase belongs in the cloisonne` category and is an exceptional example of its genre`. The base is pottery and a coat of thick stippled material was applied over it, the material resembling bark in both color and texture. Next, a fine cloisonne` work of bronze wires was attached and the cells were then filled with multicolored lacquers. The cloisonne` work was never fired or fired at a very low temperature. The decorations were simply smoothed and left with a silky matte surface. (The above information was taken from "Oriental Cloisonne` and Other Enamels" by Arthur and Grace Chu, copyrighted 1975 (Crown Publishers Inc.).)
The decoration on this vase is exceptional. A beautifully done bird with flowering vines and little flowers along with two huge Chrysanthemums fill the front of the vase. On the reverse, the decoration is sparser, yet effective in its simplicity. This heroic size is very unusual for this technique which was generally limited to small vases. It stands an impressive 11-1/4" tall giving the flowers and bird a realistic scale . . . The only large one I've seen in reality or in books. There is some very minor flaking under the rolled rim that one has to look very hard to see and mentioned merely for the sake of accuracy. A rare example for the collector or appreciator of the art of the Orient and the prize of any serious collection.
Questions? Ask the Ferret!