Japanese Cloisonné Vase

by Namikawa Yasuyuki

Japanese Decorative Art, Gallery 26


Focus on the Object

This wonderful cloisonné enamel vase was made by the fine Japanese artist-craftsman Namikawa Yasuyuki, in Kyoto, shortly before he retired in 1915. It represents the culmination of his skill acquired over a lifetime.

Cloisonné enamel
Cloisonné is made by the fusion of powdered glass onto a copper or other metal body. The colours are separated by strips of metal, on edge, called cloisons which delineated the picture or pattern to be formed. Repeated firings in a kiln, and polishing between each, were required to obtain the smooth surface characteristic of the finest cloisonné.

Japanese cloisonné
The making of cloisonné is not an old Japanese tradition, and the making of objects of any size only began in the 1830s, when, it is said, Kaji Tsunekichi tried to copy a Chinese piece. The craft developed slowly at first, and until the 1870s the colours were poor and the execution crude. After that time, however, the increase in the skill of the many craftmen and small factories that made cloisonné was phenomenal. We can follow this increase in skill and the change in taste of that time, when Western demand influenced all the arts of Japan, in the work of Namikawa Yausuyuki, arguably the finest cloisonné artist of all time.