Satsuma ware originated in the province of that name in southern Japan more than 300 years ago. However, the Satsuma that was produced to appeal to the tastes of western consumers in the 19th century during the Meiji period (1858-1912) was made in various Japanese cities. These wares are among the most recognized Japanese export pieces made in this era. Among the designs thought most favored by the west were the millefleur-like “flower-packed” patterns, along with tightly “filled-in painting” featuring pagodas, folding fans and kimono-clad ladies and other symbols considered “quaint” by foreigners. Increasingly, pieces were made more for decoration than practicality, with a corresponding increase in the application of raised gold.
Satsuma is a soft-paste porcelain, which because of its delicacy requires a glaze to seal the finished product. A wider palette of colors to choose from, however, was thus available to artists for the decoration than for hard-paste porcelain, such as Imari.
According to the Harrod’s Certificate of Antiquity that came with it from their Antique Porcelain Department, this piece is described as “a Japanese vase of ovoid form decorated in underglaze ‘Mille Fleurs pattern.’ Bearing the House (?) of the Prince of Satsuma on the base. Circa 1880.” It’s nice to have such a fine example with this outstanding provenance accompanying it.
The best way to enjoy this piece is to hold it and examine each individual flower as it connects to every other flower. It is a sumptuous feast for the eyes.
Large chrysanthemum blooms intermingle with irises, while lilies, and other exotic flowers vie for your attention at once. Their beauty is subtle yet imposing simultaneously. The gilding that highlights all the flowers was exquisitely done. The small rim at the top has been carefully gilded in a way that flows onto the floral designs below.
The condition is excellent. This was no doubt a treasured, cabinet-kept piece of Japanese porcelain for some 135 years. It is rare to see so much of the gilding still luminous after all this time.
It measures about 5-7/8 inches in diameter and 5-1/2 inches in height.