This Japanese antique rare Kiyomizu Awata Ware miniature gourd ornament was made by the Greatest Meiji Era Artist Tanzan Seikai 談山西海 during the early Meiji period, he passed away in 1887. It is quite a unique piece of pottery decorated in a perfect black underglaze with very heavy over glaze enamels on ground porcelain flowers which looks like cloisonné, which incidentally was also made as an off shoot of Awata ware. It is a very fine piece hand made and hand painted, decorated in under glaze black with ground porcelain enameled flowers and expertly done and very detailed stylized work by this famous potter and painter. It was made as a decorative piece only; it is a miniature gourd vase ornament so it is not missing anything that went into the top.
It is amazing that this piece found its way into our collection and a few years later we have learned what it is, and who the potter was. Tanzan Seikai was both a potter and a painter, and we have spent more time discussing the overall history which he was a part of, to put it into the context of Japanese art of the time and the fame of this artist discussed below. We constructed our own writing from many different sources and at some point when we can find just the detailed history of Tanzan Seikai, we will probably remove if not gone already by then. The resources we have provided below are excellent reading for the Japanese Art History enthusiast. This antique piece is in excellent condition with no cracks or chips or missing decor. Of interest, the articles all mention that the art of Tanzan Seikai is mostly all gone from Japan, and now only found in Europe and the US. Thank you for teaching me, Sandra Andacht.
SIZE: Height 4 3/8 inches or 11.11 cm, Diameter at widest 2 1/4 or 5.71 cm
The Kyoto Famous Potter Tanzan Seikai 談山西海 of 1813-1887 and Awata History
While many of us have heard the names we mention along with Tanzan in the following excerpts, the name of Tanzan is not a name many of us know as well as the others, yet apparently he was considered just as talented and is just as well known by Japanese ceramic experts and those who are well read on the subject. The name and history of Tanzan is found in many books both old including those dating to the Meiji period, and newer including ‘the Master Potters of Meiji’ also referenced below; with examples of his works grouped with other greats such as Kinkozan, Dohachi, Ninsei, and Kozan.
A new craft and ceramic tradition began to emerge after the renowned Vienna exhibition . With the port of Kobe opening in 1859, it was closest for large export from Kyoto led by the then first largest workshops of Kinkozan. Tanzan Seikai is found as a huge part of Meiji era history his name grouped with other great and famous potters of Kyoto and those who settled in Tokyo; and the wave of those following in the footsteps of Makuzu Kozan, such as Kinkozan Sobei VI, Kiyomizu Rokubei III, Kanzan Denshichi. -1- A wave of western designs with the most known being underglaze blue and over glaze enamels were made in workshops for export, and with many techniques being unknown. Tanzan is listed as one of the followers of the Ninsei school including those who made faïence such as Awata faience, and those who made semi-porcelain and porcelain who settled in Kiyomidzu, or old Kyoto. -2- At the time Bowes wrote the book we reference in the late 1800s there were just twelve families following the trade of Awata faïence
Just one example of Tanzan’s work discussed and shown in Bowes book we referenced is said to show his importance as both a potter and a painter. It is Awata faïence of rich cream tint covered in thin bright glaze and crackled. The decoration is a group of wild geese or ‘gan’ in flight and resting among reeds or ‘ashi’. It is described as being painted over the glaze in a masterly truthful manner in gold and brown glaze with gold introduced sparingly. This specimen was sent to the London Exhibition in 1874 by the Japanese Government -3- For more examples of his work, see the book reference below.
According to the 1911 Encylopedia Brittanica on Japan in the Section on Japanese Art, 'Awata-yaki is the best known among the ceramic productions of Kyoto, then spelled Kiōto. There is evidence to show that the art of decoration with enamels over the glaze reached Kiōto from Hizen in the middle of the 17th century. Just at that time Awata flourished in the Western capital a potter of remarkable ability, called Nomura Seisuke. He immediately utilized the new method, and produced many beautiful examples of jewelled faience, having close, hard pâte, yellowish-white, or brownish-white, glaze covered with a network of fine crackle, and sparse decoration in pure full-bodied colours—red, green, gold and silver. (Well this began sounding much like this bottle so I thought it a good reference addition here). Here they mention all the greats of Kyoto then spelled Kioto, and Tanzan's name is among them. Kiyōmizu-yaki may be included roughly all the faience of Kiōto, with the exception of the three varieties described above. The distinction between Kiyōmizu, Awata and Iwakura is primarily local. This reference is also a good place to find the discussion between Awata and Old Satsuma. 4
In the early Meiji period, most court nobles had left Kyoto due to the relocating of the capital to Tokyo, and the haibutsu-kishaku anti-Buddhist movement that forced temples and shrines to fall into decline. Potteries began turning to foreign countries to promote Awata ware for new markets. Many works by Tanzan Seikai, Hozan Bunzo X), Kinkozan Sobei VI, Taizan Yohei VIII and Taizan Yohei IX are still found in foreign collections. -5-
Although Awatayaki became very popular at the beginning of Meiji period, there were some periods when the unchanged old designs, excessively decorated pots and the stains made in the crackles were pointed as defects by some. It was such time when ceramists researched ways to produce new design of Art Nouveau type or works without crackles. There is another face of Awatayaki. Do you ever know that they made cloisonne, too? It is unexpectedly unknown that Awata Ware kiln also fire cloisonne in Meiji period. You can find cloisonne made by Kinkouzan or Yasuda in antique shops or auction markets today. As Kyo-Shippou or cloisonne made in Kyoto, Namikawa Yasuyuki and Inaba Cloisonne called Kin-un-ken, is also very famous. Both of their workshop is in Awata area. And at some point, ceramic and cloisonne required high skill of glazing. There might have been mutual technical exchange. It is rather out of subject but interesting story that today both Kyo-Satsuma and Kyo-Shippou are estimated properly in Europe and the U.S than in Japan. -6-
The signed mark of Tanzan Seikai is always painted in black with some variances in the script writing. Other pieces of his work include miniature teapots and a small set of vases such as this one. He is mentioned over and over including in several books as being second only to Kinkozan as the best known of the manufacturers for making and export of Awara Ware during the Meiji period. He is most known for his Awata faïence with porcelain production being the second runner up to this. Several pages scattered throughout this book by Bowes are devoted to just ‘Tanzan Ware’. He is found discussed in other books from the turn of the century we did not even reference here, and many other books on the history of artists during the Meiji period, including 'Japanese Pottery: Being a Native Report. With an Introduction and Catalogue' By Augustus Wollaston Franks. Here, we have just touched the surface of our research on this potter. The book by Hooper Phillips 'Pottery, Porcelain'. written in 1894 is hard to access on the internet and we were fortunate to tind an old original copy which holds more information about this potter and Aware ware that we have now ordered.
1 MASTER POTTERS OF THE MEIJI JAPAN Makuzu Kozan (1842-1916) and His Workshop by Moyra Clare Pollard 2,3 From Japanese Pottery: With Notes Describing the Thoughts and Subjects Employed, By James Lord Bowes 4 The 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica JAPAN, Section IV.—JAPANESE ART 5 The History of Kyo-yaki (Kyoto ware), Kyoto Ceramic Art Association website, Japan 6 Awata yaki, Awata Ware, Historical Overview from an Awata ware blog or website in Japan
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