13. Small mystery

This tiny, elegant vase contains several puzzles. It is full of interesting design details, and minutely worked patterns. In many ways it is quite a traditional, older design. In others it looks relatively modern.

The first thing that stands out is the attractive ‘art deco’ style for the houou bird. It definitely has the traditional ‘chicken’ head but is very different to the traditional rendering. The butterflies, by comparison, are very traditionally drawn.

Moving on to look at two details in the banding in the upper part of the vase, both of these have elements more commonly found on a Chinese vase, if presented slightly strangely. At the same time the execution is extremely good. For example, the symbol in image 13.4 is only about 12mm wide, but it is neatly done.

Elsewhere I have seen a similar vase confidently labelled as “French”. That would make some sense. In France there were several prominent companies who looked to Japan for inspiration, and who began to produce cloisonne. It would be good to be sure – maybe time will reveal all.

Object 13. Vase height 12.5 cm weight 110 gm.

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