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Vintage Japanese Cloisonné Vase: Pale Celadon Green Enamel with Ornate White Chrysanthemum Design, Ando 20th Century Asian Art

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This listing is for an 18.3-mm (7.2-inch) high by 77-mm (3-inch) diameter silver-wire cloisonné enamel vase, decorated with a design of flowing chrysanthemum plants on a ground of pale celadon green enamel. Please note that Photo #1 is closest to the true color of the vase. The decoration is oriented to one side of the vase; the back of the vase is solid celadon green enamel. Photo #5 has three different views of the vase to show the entire surface. This is a beautiful piece that does have some condition issues (described in detail below) but still displays well and can be appreciated as a very nice example of cloisonné art.

Briefly, cloisonné objects such as this were produced by gluing fine rectangular wire pieces to the surface of thin copper alloy vessels to create color area boundaries. The designs thus created were filled with enamel of various colors, and the items were fired to fuse enamel and wires to the surface. A coating of “counter-enamel” was applied to the interior before firing, to prevent deformation of the thin metal base object.

Research for this listing was by no means definitive, but after reviewing available internet resources it appears to be reasonably certain that the vase is Japanese, as indicated by form, surface design, and workmanship. There is no mark, unless concentric circles on the base are actually a maker’s mark (unlikely). The decoration style indicates that the piece was possibly made by the Ando Cloisonné Co., Ltd., of Nagoya, founded in 1880 and still in business today. Although Ando has a well-known mark consisting of a round “mon” (family heraldic symbol) with four petals, resembling a rounded Maltese cross, the company has apparently produced unmarked pieces or used paper labels at times. The chrysanthemum design is very similar in style to a larger Ando vase example found on the internet, described as being “unmarked, 20th century Showa Period.”

The exact age of this piece is undetermined. The overall impression is of substantial age consistent with the early to mid-20th century. The wire work is silver, although the wire dividers are mostly visible simply as dark lines. The rim and base pieces, which seem to have been attached separately to the main metal body, are of thin copper, with a very nice dark red to black patina (no verdigris). The base appears to have originally been silvered, on its concealed bottom surfaces only; the thin edge exposed around the bottom when the piece is resting upright has the same dark red copper patina as the top rim flange. The silvered coating on the bottom surface is largely worn off, leaving a slightly brassy tone with a few silver remnants. A bubbly coat of pale green counter-enamel is visible inside the vase.

In terms of condition, there are very fine hairline cracks in the green body enamel in several areas. Some of these cracks are associated with the following specific surface impacts:

(1) an impact to the shoulder just left of the large white chrysanthemum has left an approximate 5 by 6.5 mm oval spiral crack with other cracks radiating from it, mostly above the shoulder;

(2) an impact to the center of the farthest-left dark blue-green leaf cluster has resulted in chipping of the enamel in an approximate 4 by 9.5 mm area within that leaf cluster (this area is not too conspicuous due to location in the design: the chipped area does not appear to go all the way through the enamel; note: wire exposed in chipping here can be seen to be silver colored under magnification);

(3) a small impact above and to the right of right edge of the cloisonné design has resulted in a small “star” of tiny cracks and loss of a few microscopic chips of enamel;

(4) an impact just below the shoulder on the back side has resulted in some downward radiating cracks and some microscopic chipping;

(5) an impact to the edge of the base has left an approximate 4 by 11 mm dent in the metal and some fine cracks radiating upward in the enamel; and

(6) there are some cracks at the edge of and just to the right of the upper cloisonné design area, of which some appear to be associated with a very small impact to one of the wires.

In addition, there are several very tiny “fleabite” cups or voids in the surface of the design (that appear to originate in the manufacture of the piece) and a few small dents in the rim.

Please note (added 8/17/12): Since the base has a small base and wide shoulders, it is top heavy by design. In going over the vase again in response to a question from an interested shopper regarding its display stability, we at Astra’s Shadow noticed a slight wobble due to the dent in the base discussed above that we had not noticed before. In other words, with the vase sitting on a stable level surface, if you tap lightly with your finger around the shoulder, there is a wobble that that is more apparent when tapped at about 90 degrees from the dent spot. So, if the piece is placed on a solid stable surface, it is stable, but if it was on a table, for example, and the table was bumped, the vase would likely fall over due to both the dent and the actual top heavy form of the vase. Likewise, it might fall over in a 4.0+ earthquake (something we are familiar with here in California). Museum putty (aka “earthquake putty”) on a very stable surface would definitely be advised for display. Most of these vases originally come with small detached disk-like wooden bases that they sit on; unfortunately this one has lost its base. The ideal situation would be for such a base to be made and fitted to it, and the vase museum-puttied to it. Another suggestion might be to display the vase lying down in an appropriate wooden box, maybe cushioned with some Japanese textile. This would invite viewers to actually pick up and handle the piece, which would not be the case if it was displayed standing up.

The vase, with its dents and cracks, has obviously had its share of mishaps. Pricing takes into account these condition issues. As stated above, this vase is still a very nice display piece that is well able to convey its value as a fine example of Japanese cloisonné art.

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Vintage Japanese Cloisonné Vase: Pale Celadon Green Enamel with Ornate White Chrysanthemum Design, Ando 20th Century Asian Art