This Chinese vintage cloisonne xiānglú 香爐 or incense case is a nice small box and perfect inside. It is probably only about 20-30 years old. This was a purchase from one of our regular dealers in Japan. It is very lovely and very well made. It is decorated in cloisonne flowers in red, black, green and blue and highlighted in gold, all handmade. It has some surface spots to it that appear to have occurred in the making. If it is wear, it does not take away from the beauty. It has no cracks or chips. See more below to understand the types of cloisonne and where this one fits. This is a gorgeous piece that looks like a piece of artwork.
SIZE: Diameter 2.3 inches or 5.3 cm, Height .9 inches or 2.2 cm
From the previous website I.D. Cloisonne, the Important Japanese period 1880-1920
By 1880 and after, export demands exploded. China's cloisonne production increased significantly for the European and American markets. Quality suffered, due to the mass produced, sloppy workmanship of these decorative and utilitarian items. Motifs became more mundane and repetitive, with much copied traditional subjects, and symbolic nature motifs. The market was flooded with smoking implements, decorative objects, figurines, and small dinnerware accessories.
For Japan, this period of 1880 to 1920 became the golden era of Japanese master cloisonne craftsmen. After participating in International Exhibitions, bringing to France, in 1867, their first cloisonne exhibits. With the years and their increased mastery, entitling them to prizes for their superb cloisonne items, Japan became the most sought-after exporter of cloisonne, replacing China. Pieces were designed and created over many months in the master's studios. Keeping the quality very high and the demand high as well.
The irony is that after Japanese cloisonne was internationally recognized and praised, creating a huge demand for more pieces for the middle classes, this triggered a huge production from Japan with much less refinement and shoddy workmanship. Eventually causing a backlash and the downfall of some of the more reputable makers. Demand for their exclusive and very pricey masterpieces declined with their studios closed by the 1920s. That's why there is, and was such a difference in price between Chinese and Japanese cloisonne produced during that short 40 year period. Even today, these Japanese masterpieces have values in the $20,000 to $50,000 dollar range or more.
While Chinese cloisonne remained traditional, staying with their tried and true motifs and renditions. Japan's cloisonne craftsmen created at least 9 new types of cloisonne between 1870 and 1910, applied to free-standing objects:
1. the black opaque and glossy wireless cloisonne background with fine cloison motifs 2. the translucent enamel over relief ground without cloison, often red 3. the stippled foreground with clear graduated enamels and applied cloison motifs 4. the brocades and motifs using goldstone enamels 5. the moriage cloisonne with heavier relief enamel applied motifs on smooth wireless ground 6. the elevated cloisonne with relief cloison motifs applied to a translucent wireless ground 7. the cloisonne applied to ceramic bodies 8. the graduated opaque wireless cloisonne motifs 9. the plique-a-jour cloisonne 10. and various combinations of the above.
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