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Japanese Cloisonné Foil-Backed Vase with Dragon

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Japan Anonymous, Japanese
Japanese Cloisonné Foil-Backed Vase with Dragon, c. 1905
Enamel on Brass
8 13/16 in. x 4 5/16 in. x 4 5/16 in. (22.38 cm x 10.95 cm x 10.95 cm)


Object Type: Cloisonné
Technique: Cloisonné
Creation Place: Asia, Japan
Credit Line: Gift of Douglas and Pamela Routh
Accession Number: 2002.9.36


Commentary
Likely created for foreign export, this elegantly shaped, meticulously crafted, and uniquely textured cloisonné utilizes the iconography of the Japanese dragon as a central component to the piece. The white and blue gradient emphasizes sky and water elements—defining characteristics of Japanese dragons—and bridges them together in a harmonizing way. The dragon motif was popular in cloisonné productions along with depictions of nature due to its prominence in Japanese and Chinese mythology and its eventual role as indicator of exoticism for foreign consumers. The estimated date of this piece would place its creation in the midst of the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905, raising engaging questions about its production and its appeal to foreign audiences.

Gabrielle Garcia (student, 2016)

Marks
There is a label on the base reading: "E5" and a stamp in the metal at the bottom center. Signed: "Tomiki".

Medium
Multicolored enamels and foil over a cast brass and silver base.

Object Description
This bulb-shaped vase with long cylindrical neck and everted opening has an applied silver rim, inner neck-ring and silver base-plate. This vase combines several Japanese cloisonné techniques: The silver substrate has been hammered to produce a ground of tiny “fish roe” dots (nanako) and was then further hammered and engraved (tomei-jippo/basse-taille) with a dragon rising above the waves and covered in foil (ginbari) before enameling (tsuiki-jippo). The golden-brown dragon with a green spinal ridge coils around the neck of the vase while the tossing blue waves shade to the silver-white of the sky above.

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