Namikawa Yasuyuki (1845–1927): Waterfall vase, 1910–15, 14.9 cm high, Cloisonné enamel with silver wire, on copper.
Cloisonné is not a traditional Japanese craft, and the first three-dimensional pieces were probably those made by Kaji Tsunekichi in the 1830s. The craft developed slowly until the 1870s, when an astonishing transformation began, which converted the clumsy, muddy-coloured cloisonné wares of the early Meiji period (1868–1912) into the virtuoso works of the period after about 1890, reaching its apogee in the late Meiji and early Taisho (1912–27) periods Namikawa. Yasuyuki of Kyoto, one of the most celebrated enamellers of his day, was at the forefront of this development; he did not use all the new techniques invented during this exciting period, such as ‘wire-less' cloisonné, or raised cloisonné, but concentrated on the perfection of colours and surface of the increasingly prominent backgrounds, and on the use of the wire cloisons. Yasuyuki began by sculpting the wire, treating it as here as part of the design and as equal in importance to the colours. The conformation of subject matter to shape is a triumph of design. [Anonymous gift, EA2002.177].