37. Confidently shining

This lovely vase has a fascinating construction. In parts it has an old style construction of ‘dull’ enamel, and alongside it floral and butterfly decoration. Elsewhere, behind that decoration, there is a very different style of bright green. Furthermore there are bright blue bands around the lower neck and the base.

Before examining the bright blues and greens it is worth looking at the wirework. One way to do that is to look at one of the butterflies, each of which is repeated three times.

Looking at the detail of these it is evident that the design is based on a pre-prepared standard shape but one that still needed careful execution. The small differences are charming and are what makes Japanese cloisonne so interesting to examine in detail.

Turning to the blue and green reflective background and borders, the high resolution images show that these are (presumably) metal or metal foil fragments behind a semi-transparent coloured enamel. The effect is superb even if these greens and blues rather clash with the older duller traditional greens and blues.

It is interesting to calculate the ‘fragment’ size. In image ref 37.5 the blue semicircles are 8 mm across. Many fragments overlap but it is clear that there are 10 or more fragments across that distance. That means that each is 0.8 mm in diameter or smaller.

In conclusion, the top and bottom of this vase are extremely traditional black and blue enamel while the middle section has a larger expanse of sparkling green than any object seen so far. The contrast is tremendous, making this feel like a transitional stage for (or experiment by) the workshop involved.

Object 37 Vase height 21.6 cm weight 289gm.

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