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Japanese Ceramics

Three of the most common Japanese ceramic wares found in the west are known as Imari, Kutani and Satsuma. The primary distinguishing feature between these is that the first two are porcelains whilst the third is pottery.

The Satsuma kilns were established in the 16th Century and developed in the 17th Century with the introduction of captured Korean potters, however most of what we see today was made and exported to the west from the end of the Edo Period, through the Meiji restoration until the Taisho Period (early 19th C. - early 20th C.) This highly ornamental nishikide satsuma is a low fired, cream coloured earthenware decorated with coloured enamels and lavish gilding. The glaze has a fine craquelure formed as a result of uneven contraction between the body and glaze during cooling.

Objects usually consist of vases, incense burners (koro), other sorts of containers, and sometimes dishes and figures. Decoration is largely minutely drawn landscapes, flower studies or figural scenes. Another characteristic which sometimes can be found near the mark, or incorporated into the decoration is a circle containing a cross. This the Shimazu kamon, indicating that the kilns were sponsored by the powerful Shimazu clan (a kamon or mon is a Japanese badge similar to a heraldic device or coat of arms in the west).

The best workshops were established in the cities of Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe. The popularity of satsuma in the west was established at a series of major international Exhibitions, most notably in Paris (1867), Vienna (1873) and Philadelphia (1876) where Japan took 30,000 objects and spent more than any of the other 30 exhibiting nations far on their display. These exhibitions led to the art movement called “Japonisme”, a French term coined in the late 19th Century to describe the craze for Japanese art and design in the west, similar to “Chinoiserie” style.

Satsuma regularly crops up in auctions in the UK, where competition for the best pieces can be fierce. Workshops and decorators’ names to look out for include Kinkozan, Chosuzan, Kozan, Ryozan, Gyokusan, Seikozan, and the most sought after artist, Yabu Meizan. One decorative element which is highly prized by collectors is the use of a particular shade of blue enamel. Known as Gosu Blue, a thick blue-black colour was utilised in small quantities in Kyoto in the mid 19th Century. By the 1930s, the overall quality declined as production increased, and poorly conceived, garish wares with tube-lined decoration were exported in ever increasing numbers. The value of these pieces is correspondingly modest.

Rogers Jones & Co. will be offering a group of fine satsuma in the next Selections & Collections auction scheduled for September (TBC) by leading artists (see below). Please contact me if you have any Japanese ceramics or works of art you are considering offering for sale for an appraisal.

1. Square section Vase, by Kinkozan, Meiji Period, painted with landscapes and bamboo with chidori.

2. Square section Vase, by Kinkozan, Meiji Period, painted with autumn momiji and chidori, in the style of Yabu Meizan.

3. Pair of small cylinder vases, by Ryozan, Meiji Period, painted with a procession of samurai warriors.

Recent successes include:

4. Pair of small cylinder vases, by Yabu Meizan, 6cm H; and a double gourd dragon and rakkan vase in the style of Hododa, Meiji Period, 12cm H, SOLD at RJ&Co. £3,000

5. Small triangular shaped bowl, by Takezan, Meiji Period, SOLD at RJ&Co. £650

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