The Namikawa Workshop is renowned for its unique pieces, and that might be why a certain yakimono vessel went for so much when it was auctioned at Christie’s in May 2013. A certain Namikawa cloisonne vase with its cover was estimated to sell for somewhere around £1,000 – £1,200. Nevertheless, when all was said and done it actually went for £17,500.
Astute followers of fine arts news are probably familiar with the Japanese Aesthetic series at Christie’s South Kensington branch. The vessel in question was probably made sometime at the end of the 19th century during the Meiji period. It features an impressive colored enamel design made with an inlay of both gold and silver wire.
Four small vase-shaped panels are prominently laid out across the length of the piece. These contain flowers, butterflies, ho-o and a dragon. The rest of the vessel features scrolling flowers that plays out along a brown background. Gilt copper rims finish off the piece. Like so many of these later Namikawa works, the presence of foreign influence is very clear.
Nevertheless, the presence of an oriental phoenix provides plenty of tradition for the vase irrespective of any foreign influence. Of course, not all late 19th century works show such clear influence. The South Kensington branch also sold a Satsuma bowl from the same time period for £3,500, despite being estimated with a worth of around £800 – £1,200.
Kyoto Tojiki Goshi Gaisha was behind the piece, though it doesn’t necessarily look massed produced. The themes on the decoration are uniquely Japanese, and once more reflect a very keen interest in botany. Enamel bursts into a variety of colors that depict peonies, chrysanthemum blossoms and a variety of other flowers. These flowers are competently composed and illustrate a good knowledge of the way the blossoms look in the real world.
Once again butterflies are also prominently displayed across the unique piece. It’s rather delicate, as one might expect a bowl of that era to be, but it’s doubtful that the artists purely intended it to be a visual treat. Historically these sorts of pieces might have been used in service at people’s private residences. Naturally, no one in the modern era would ever think to use a piece like this for his or her own purposes. That would be foolish, and collectors would much rather appreciate this sort of thing for its aesthetic value these days.