Christie’s auction of products related to what they termed the Japanese Aesthetic picked up a great deal of attention in the world of fine art. What really sets these pieces apart from most other yakimono designs that collectors of Japanese art would come across is their prominent use of cloisonne techniques. Cloisonne refers to decorating ceramics or other surfaces with enamel.
An artist first forms pieces of enamel in various colors and then separates them by strips of flattened wire when they make a cloisonne piece. There are many different styles of design in this matter, but one particularly interesting piece showed up at Christies in May 2013.
The vase in question was worked in both gold and silver wire. Wisteria blossoms and chrysanthemums were featured heavily in the subject material along with birds. Those who have perhaps played a round or two of hanafuda are well familiar with how important these themes are in Japanese artwork.
Since the vase was made during the Meiji period, some art collectors could associate the chrysanthemum blossoms will the newly established central power of the monarchy. Regardless of analysis, though, it’s clear that this work of art is at least aesthetically pleasing with its bold ochre background. It was estimated to sell at a price somewhere around £1,500 – £2,000, but ended up going for £3,500.
Christie’s South Kensington also sold a pair of cloisonne vases from the same time period that featured a very different aesthetic. Having received an estimate at a price up to £6,000, the seller may have been pleasantly surprised to find that the set went for £6,250.
While these were also from the Meiji era, the two pieces feature very different themes. Once again the artist who made them used ceramic and enamel to tell a story. These cloisonne yakimono vases feature a dark blue background with hovering butterflies. Flowers and scrolls feature prominently along the bottom, and the design ends on either side with a rim and a base.
Unlike the ochre piece, these two vases are rather minimalist in their design ethos. They were probably made in the late 19th century, after Japanese artists were able to access information about fine art from around the world. Rather than using uniform wire, both of these vases feature cloisonne patterns that use various sizes and shapes of wire. Rather than making the vases seem rough, this gives them a unique finish that could only have come from the hands of a skilled artist.