22. Hidden Skills

This next vase is full of skilful designs beautifully executed, but they are easily overlooked unless the lighting is bright and the viewer is observant. Who then was the intended purchaser? The vase would have been costly to make, so it needed knowledgeable buyers who could appreciate its attractions. Who were they?

At first glance the decoration seems ordinary. A Houou Bird in one panel, and then two other panels, one orange with butterflies and other motifs, the other dark grey with floral designs. It is the details elsewhere that surprise though.

ref 22.3

Working from the bottom upwards, first there are the standard ring of small red circles, the proven way to ensure strength in this crucial area.

Next however there is a band of lovely green speckled light brown enamel within a complicated wiring edge pattern.

That then turns into an attractive goldstone ground with spiral strength wiring, attractively spaced so probably more for decoration than strength. There are also small floral decorations.

Then there is a band of light blue alternating with black, topped with a red oval wired pattern.

Finally there is a basic speckled white fish-scale pattern. Look back at the pictures of the vase at the top of the page and you see that all of the above happens in the least observed part of the vase, in the first quarter of its height.

As we move to the main area with its three panels there is a lot more evidence of the care that has gone into this vase. Looking at where the panels join, for example, we see some lovely wirework that separate superb enamel colouring.

ref 22.4

This is similar to the design we saw earlier in two vases (objects 15 and 16) where an upper band of two alternating grounds, goldstone and similar, were joined with a wavy band. They were clearly much later in period than this though.

If we look at the Houou Bird we can also see further evidence that this maker had control over a wide range of enamel colours.

ref 22.5

It has three or four shades of blue, as well as red, orange, light purple, and other shades. It has to be bright to stand out against an already attractive goldstone background.

Some designers choose to put Houou Birds against more neutral grey or other more neutral grounds.

Indeed as we see in image 22.4 above, this vase has a panel of grey enamel but the designer chose not to use it to display the Houou Bird, preferring the challenge of the goldstone.

ref 22.6

Towards the top of the vase there is another complex band of decoration. The maker of this vase was trying very hard to show off their skills with a wide range of colours. The wirework is not particularly complex, so it seems likely that the maker saw the tight control of enamel colours and looks as the key feature for the vase.

In total, this vase is one that has lots to recommend it to the enthusiast. A more casual observer may fail to spot the lovely details.

Object 22. Vase height 18.5 cm weight 303 gm.

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