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Identify Japanese Cloisonne & Distinguish From Chinese Cloisonne

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Author Topic: Identify Japanese Cloisonne & Distinguish From Chinese Cloisonne  (Read 25390 times)
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« on: February 02, 2011, 10:14:12 pm »

Some tips on how to identify Japanese cloisonne and distinguish it from Chinese cloisonne. I know for myself, there is much to learn !

I thought a good place to start off for this Cloisonne part of the forum would be to touch on the development of cloisonne technology, style, and certain characteristics that will help us make identification possible.

The more we know about both Chinese and Japanese cloisonne, the less likely it is to mistake one for the other, or of lumping them together as "Oriental".
If we have a good idea of the basic characteristics of Early and Middle period Japanese cloisonne plus similar knowledge of Ming cloisonne, identification will be possible almost every time.

The characteristic glazes of the Golden Age, translucent or opaque, display the light=reflecting qualities which give the period its name. Chinese cloisonne became somewhat more polished and light reflecting, but less so that Japanese Golden Age cloisonne. Colors intensified to some extent, and some new color schemes and designs were added to the repetitive designs from the past, but the general style and technique of Chinese cloisonne remained, and still remains static.
It is perfectly possible that the skill of the Golden Age artisan, when put to the task of imitating late Chinese cloisonne, as well as Ming style wares, could have made wares which are impossible to distinguish from the original.
These Comparisons below of Early period and Middle period Japanese Cloisonne with those of the Ming dynasty Chinese Cloisonne should help take many individual pieces out of that category.


Early and Middle Japanese

If under 30.5 centimeters, copper or bronze. If copper, piece is lighter in weight than comparable Ming Dynasty piece.

Ming Dynasty Chinese
Bronze. Introduction of sheet-copper bodies in early sixteenth century.


Early and Middle Japanese

Bronze fittings with gilt overlay, or traces, if piece is in poor condition. Brass or bronze fittings not necessarily true to Ming designs.

Ming Dynasty Chinese

Bronze fittings with gilt overlay, or traces if worn. Fittings true to Ming design based on acnient Chinese bronzes


Early and MIddle Japanese

Odd or unusual shapes differing from Ming models common, but exact imitations also found.

Ming Dynasty Chinese

Fidelity to shapes of ancient Chinese bronzes. Most shapes based on Buddhist altar sets, consisting of incense burner, two vases, and two candlesticks, or a set of three objects, and incense burner, a box, and a vase. Plates, bowls, pilgrim bottles, and pitchers also found.

Wirework, Designs

Early and Middle Japanese

Copper wires, die drawn, showing no unevenness in diameter. No split wires, no solder showing through the glaze. Wires applied with gum, not solder.

Separate spring-coil cloisons or cloud cloisons used in background to hold glaze in place. Spring-coil and karakusa tendril-shaped cloisons often used independently to hold monochrome counternamel in place.

Asymmetrical designs or asymmetrical patterns favored. Asymmetry common even in imitation of Buddhist lotus-pattern wares. Ming imitations even more croweded in appearance than Chinese models, with many more motifs from Chinese art appearing on the same piece. Chrysanthemum often replaces lotus.
If dragon motif used, three toes depicted.
Whimsical or humorous renderings of animals, or odd renderings of subject matter may point to Japanese origin when Chinese style is being imitated. Landscapes with figures relatively rare in Ming copies; some Middle perioud pieces based on Japanese prints show outdoor scenes.

Border of red dots oulined in wire on Japanese cloisonne on identifyhing mark, that, when found on Ming- style pieces in conjunction with other marks of Japanese make, may confirm Japanese origin.

Ming Dynasty Chinese

Hand formed bronze wires of uneven diameter. Wires sometimes split; solder showing through the glaze.
When deployed over entire piece are part of overall design and color scheme. Separate repeated cloisons of uniform size sometimes utilized in backgrounds. Most pieces fully decorated on all sides and bottoms.
Symmetrical designs based on Buddhist lotus pattern, placed symmetrically on objects. Chrysanthemum design or other motifs relatively uncommon.

If dragon motif used, four or five toes depicted. Dragon motif rare.
Ming designs limited to Buddhist lotus pattern (rarely, chrysanthemum) or dragon design. Although mythical animals, such as phoenix, kara-shishi, winged horse, may be found. Motifs based on real animals are confined to the bird family. Some pieces with landscape extant.

Borders composed of red dots outlined with wires are not observed as common, or mentioned by scholars such as Garner or Liu as an identifying motif on Chinese cloisonne.


Early and Middle Japanese

Glazes display infinite color range; many tints, hues, and shaded effects.
Many techniques, including transparent glazes, built-up glazes ( Moriage), tea-goldstone, and so on. Openwork rare.

Ming Dynasty Chinese

Color range and ability to produce shading as in Ming.
Glazes and techniques as in Ming; opaque glazes. Chinese are specialists in openwork.


Early and Middle Japanese

Japanese marks now more common than Chinese marks, except for the late nineteenth century "Made in China" stamp.
Ming Dynasty Chinese

Commonly unmarked, or marked "Made in China," after 1897. "Private enterprises" began to manufacture marked cloisonne during the late Ch'ing period; likewise the Northern government after the founding of the Republic of China in 1912. Wares of recent make make seem to be largely unmarked.
« Last Edit: February 05, 2011, 02:51:42 am by Bottle Guy » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #1 on: February 04, 2011, 09:51:12 am »

When I think of snuff bottles it is Chinese that comes to my mind. Did not know the Japanese made any early snuff bottles.
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« Reply #2 on: February 04, 2011, 04:53:02 pm »

Cloisonne art work in Japan dates this far back.

One recorded reference to first possible anuff and snuff bottles was by a CP Thunberg. Saying the while visiting Japan in 1776 that snuff in flattened glass bottles was brought there by the Chinese.

Although apparently not popular in Japan, and Japanese records of its use are almost nonexistent.

I have no idea what the oldest or first Cloisonne type snuff bottle would have been created.

Not to forget that it may have been the Portuguese who introduced tobacco to Japan in the year 1543.

I am reading through some more from Bob Steven Book right now.

Lots to learn  Smiley

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