29. Chasing the flaming pearl

One of the wonderful things about having a wide range of Japanese cloisonne vases to examine is the possibility of seeing ideas evolve, sometimes driven by technical advances by the workshops. Here we have a dragon and phoenix vase from an earlier time than some of the vases we saw earlier (e.g. objects 15 and 16).

We can see that this vase does not have the earlier ‘red dot’ and fish-scale strength wiring at the base and neck, and that there are large areas of deep blue enamel not broken by wires. That suggests that the designers were in the era where they had been freed of the need for strength wiring, so replaced it with alternative attractive patterns at the base and neck.

As an aside, there is also an enamel base which is yellow, unlike any of the other vases we have seen so far. In fact most of the earlier ones have pure metal bases. Note that there is an image page specifically of vase bases – follow the link to visit it.

Looking at the Phoenix (Houou Bird) and Dragon we see that they are quite developed images that fully occupy the shield surround. Interestingly the main colour seems to be designed to come from the goldstone and green backgrounds, with the images themselves mostly pale to provide contrast. The dragon is as usual on such images ‘chasing the flaming pearl’.

It must have become apparent at about this time that the loss of the spiral strength wiring suddenly made a cloisonne vase a little more difficult for the public to identify. If you thought that this was a painted vase then it would have less value. Maybe that why the area framing the shield still has spaced out spiral shaped decoration, so as to remind the viewer of what they were looking at.

Object 29. Vase height 24.4 cm weight 414 gm.

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