23. Ginbari Phoenix and Dragon

This next vase takes the familiar Phoenix (Houou Bird) and Dragon theme but implements it on a Ginbari vase. The workshop probably had a long history of producing Phoenix and Dragon vases using traditional techniques, and then, when a new technology was invented, they at first kept their designs as familar as possible. That means it was probably a very early example of Ginbari use. Most later designs use the benefits of the Ginbari technique to give more open space around the central image.

The easiest way to describe ‘Ginbari’ is to look at a close up of areas of the vase. The first image below shows the underlying foil, the second shows that there is still wiring to separate the enamels. Note that the red crest (coxscomb) of the bird is approximately 4 mm wide on the vase.

The foil used is stamped with a repetitive pattern to provide an interesting background so that transparent enamels can be used in all parts of the design. It can be seen most easily through the light blue enamel that forms a background, but it is also visible behind the head and wings of the bird, showing that the majority of the colours used are in transparent enamel.

ref 23.5

One of the most difficult parts of the technique is said to be wrapping the complex curves of a vase with a flat sheet of patterned foil. Image 23.5 is from the neck area. It does look as if the very regular pattern on the foil seen in the earlier images is starting to become a little distorted, though the beautiful enamel colours draw the eye away from that.

ref 23.6

One thing that does not work well on the vase is the dragon. Because the background is so light, the subtle changes in the less transparent dark enamels used do not stand out against each other. The design and wirework is lovely but it is hard to see.

We can see the huge effort and resource that was needed to produce this small vase, with the additional resource needed to wrap the foil added to the usual wirework etc. This vase is another reminder of the ever rising costs that were driven by the competition between workshops. They all needed to impress the buyers and maintain market share.

Object 23. Vase height 8.8 cm weight 77 gm.

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