Satsuma ceramics of Japan in the State
25 September 2009, an exhibition Satsuma ceramics of Japan in the State
Hermitage Collection opened in the Blackamoor
Ornate items with bright painting and gilding made
The collection of the State Hermitage allows tracing different stages of the development of Satsuma ceramics and the Satsuma style from the beginning of the 18th century till the first third of the 20th century. The collection demonstrates all the variety of technical and artistic techniques that were used in ornamentation of the items. Despite the fact that this collection is not big, it is imposing enough, and along with the collection of the State Museum of Oriental Art (Moscow) it is the most significant in Russia.
70 works by Japanese ceramicists are displayed at the exhibition, except for five items that have not been exhibited before.
Items created in the so-called Thai style (Sunkoroku) traced back to the ornamentation
of Thai ceramics of the
Korean and Chinese examples influenced the formation of the Satsuma ceramics style. This influence is clearly observed in the ornamentation of a vessel of dark clay inlaid with white engobe, a vessel with relief depiction of a bird and iconography of Hotei figurine, deity of contentment and abundance.
In the second half of the 18th century the production of ceramics in Satsuma is decreased. The recovery of production activity is observed only at the beginning of the 19th century. During this time the popular pieces were small items intended for tea ceremony or practical purposes. In the collection of the State Hermitage this period is not presented, and the earliest pieces of the 19th century are cups, vases, vessels of different forms that can be dated back only to the second half of the century.
By the middle of the 19th century a peculiar style of ceramic ware was
formed in the workshops of Kagoshima, Naeshirogawa and Tateno.
A vase with a monogram "H" under the crown is referred to expensive gift articles. It was made by the masters Chin Jukan XII and Chin Jushei and sent to St Petersburg (together with its pair) in 1896, apparently, for the coronation of Nicholas II.
Satsuma ceramics received true recognition in Europe in 1837 after the World Fair in Vienna. Interest to the works of this province led to the creation of workshops specialising in the Satsuma ceramics. From that time active production of export articles began not only in Satsuma, but also in other ceramics centres.
Kyoto stood out among these centres. In Kyoto ceramics with polychrome
painting has existed since 17th century and brilliantly developed in the works
of the celebrated masters, Nonomura Ninsei and Ogato Kenzan. The master
who turned to the Satsuma ceramics ware was Kinkozan Sobei VI
Big demand for Kyoto ceramics in the Satsuma style abroad influenced
the creation of workshops working in a similar manner in the cities of Kansai
region that includes prefectures of Kyoto, Osaka, Hyogo and Nara.
One of the most prominent masters working in this style was Yabu Meizan
Yokohama became a big centre where pieces in the Satsuma style were created.
Here one of the most prominent masters of the end of the 19th century
was Miyagawa Kozan
Increase in demand for Japanese ceramics abroad caused appearance of trade companies that ordered items of a particular type. There existed special albums of orders with examples of forms and decoration. Moulds for tea and coffee sets decorated with high relief were created in Satsuma and painted in Yokohama. The themes for these articles were battle scenes, depictions of deities, arhats and dragons against the scenery which were reproduced on all kinds of items. Relief, stamping, painting with thick paints that create relief lines, and gilding were widely applicable. Often narrative painting was combined with geometrical patterns, ornaments in the form of golden dots against which coat of arms of the Shimazu clan and the Imperial House were placed; at the bottom of the items there were inscriptions with the names of the masters who made the mould and painted the articles and, sometimes, name of a trading company.
A full-colour illustrated catalogue (State Hermitage Publishing House, St Petersburg, 2009) has been prepared and published for the exhibition. The curator of the exhibition is Tatyana Arapova, leading researcher of the Oriental Department.