Korean Influence on Japanese Porcelain

Article excerpt

Q. These Satsuma vases have been in my family for more than 100 years, purchased by my grandfather while in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War. The "mirrored" pair is without defect, except for the wearing of the gold. I have enclosed photos. Do these belong in a museum? Is there a market for such items?

A. Satsuma is the name of a type of earthenware initially made in various kilns in Chosa, Ryumonji, Tateno and Naeshirogawa, in the Japanese prefecture of Kagoshima, on the island of Kyushu. All these places were under the control of the feudal lord of Satsuma. In the late 1590s, Shimazu Yoshihiro -- the lord of Satsuma -- returned to Japan after fighting a war in Korea. He kidnapped a group of 22 Korean potters and their families, and put them to work in 1601, making ceramics from the white clay found at Naeshirogawa. With strict race laws prohibiting intermarriage, these potters and their families were kept completely separate from the rest of the Japanese population. By the third quarter of the 19th century, there were more than 1,400 of these artisans, and all were engaged in pottery-making.

Classically, Satsuma is a light and porous earthenware covered with a cream-colored crackle glaze that offers ivory-brown tones. This glaze is good for enamel decoration, and even the color white looks good against it. All enamel colors adhere to this surface well and sink into the tiny cracks to the point that they seldom flake or peel. Satsuma wares are most often found with floral decorations, but scenic designs were also made. …