This beautiful cloisonne pot is decorated in vibrant colours depicting flowers and foliage on a deep blue background.
Chinese cloisonné is prized for its exquisite beauty and intricate craftsmanship. Traditional cloisonné pieces are highly collectible and can be found in various forms such as vases, bowls, censers, and other decorative objects.
Condition: Very good. This vessel has retained its rich colours.
Dimensions: 7.7cm x 5.1cm.
Provenance: Ex. Private collection, Hampshire, UK.
Cloisonné is the technique of creating designs on metal vessels with coloured-glass paste placed within enclosures made of copper or bronze wires, which have been bent or hammered into the desired pattern. Known as cloisons (French for “partitions”), the enclosures generally are either pasted or soldered onto the metal body. The glass paste, or enamel, is colored with metallic oxide and painted into the contained areas of the design. The vessel is usually fired at a relatively low temperature, about 800°C. Enamels commonly shrink after firing, and the process is repeated several times to fill in the designs. Once this process is complete, the surface of the vessel is rubbed until the edges of the cloisons are visible. They are then gilded, often on the edges, in the interior, and on the base.
Foreign influence contributed to the development of cloisonné during the early fourteenth to fifteenth century in China. The earliest securely dated Chinese cloisonné is from the reign of the Ming Xuande emperor (1426–35). However, cloisonné is recorded during the previous Yuan dynasty. It has been suggested that the technique was introduced to China at that time via the western province of Yunnan, which, under Mongol rule, received an influx of Islamic people. A very few cloisonné objects have been dated on stylistic grounds to the Yongle reign (1403–24) of the early Ming Dynasty.
Cloisonné objects were intended primarily for the furnishing of temples and palaces, because their flamboyant splendor was considered appropriate to the function of these structures but not well suited to a more restrained atmosphere. This opinion was expressed by Cao Zhao (or Cao Mingzhong) in 1388 in his influential Gegu Yaolun (Guide to the Study of Antiquities), in which cloisonné was dismissed as being suitable only for lady’s chambers. However, by the period of Emperor Xuande, this ware came to be greatly prized at court.
In Japan, cloisonné enamels had traditionally been used only as small areas of decoration on architecture and on sword fittings. Around 1833 a former samurai, Kaji Tsunekichi of Nagoya in Owari Province (modern Aichi Prefecture), like many other samurai of that time, was forced to find ways to supplement his meagre official income. It is believed that Kaji obtained a piece of Chinese cloisonné enamel and took it apart, examined how it was made and eventually produced a small cloisonné enamel dish.
By the late 1850s he had taken on pupils and was appointed official maker to the regional warlord of Owari province. There was a huge increase in the production of cloisonné enamel ware following the ‘reopening’ of Japan in the 1850s and the ensuing obsession in the West for all forms of Japanese art. Nagoya and the surrounding area became renowned for innovations in the production of highly decorated cloisonné objects. Kyoto and Tokyo soon followed as major centres of production and cloisonné enamels became very desirable objects in the West.
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