Both these magnificent Japanese cloisonné vases are marked on their bases with the logo of the famous Ando Shippo (cloisonné) Company of Nagoya. The vases, which have been outside Japan for some years, were recently discovered and identified as the pair that match a koro [incense burner] now in the collection of the Nagoya City Museum, making up a garniture that is among the finest known Japanese cloisonné of the Meiji and Taisho periods (1867-1912 and 1912-1926). It is fitting that the central koro should be preserved in the Nagoya City Museum, since Nagoya was the home of the Ando Studio.
Such large-scale pieces must have taken a considerable time to produce - they were eventually completed around the end of the Meiji Period. Recently discovered documentary evidence of the provenance of the vases leads us to a particularly pognant and touching tale of two people and the relationship between two great nations. The Nagoya City Museum koro is kept with its original box which bears an inscription noting that the garniture was a gift from the Taisho Emperor on the occasion of the wedding between the Korean Crown Prince Iun, son of the Korean Emperor Gojong, and the Princess Cohort Sunheon, the Japanese Princess Masako of the House of Nashinomoto, in 1920.
The Prince had lived in Japan since the age of ten and was accepted as a member of the Japanese nobility. Shortly after the wedding the couple visited Korea and later returned to make their home in Japan. Prince Iun rose to become a Major General in the Japanese Army. In 1963 the couple returned to Korea, where Prince Iun was to pass away just seven years later. Princess Masako died in 1989.
Fortuitously the whole garniture has survived intact, separated into two collections - the pair of vases offered here and recently discovered in the USA, and the central incense burner in Nagoya. Records show that the incense burner, and hence the pair of vases, was the work of the master cloisonné artist Hayashi Kihyoe.
These grand vases, rank among the very best of Ando ware, with the typically dark and clear Ando blue and the finest variegated wired cloisonné floral display beneath a cascade of wisteria among which song birds dart and settle. The maker, Hayashi Kihyoe, was both brilliant and prolific in his output of lasting masterpieces of the late Meiji period. He exhibited at the Chicago Exhibition of 1893, the fourth Domestic Exposition of 1895 (21 pieces), the Aichi Prefecture Exposition of 1899, the 1900 Paris Exposition, the fifth Domestic Industrial Exposition of 1903, the St Louis Exposition of 1904, and the Anglo-Japan Exposition in 1910. Specialists will know that the Ando Studio relied upon the Hayashi family and other craftsmen to produce the art which won such acclaim in the International Expositions, although their names were rarely signed on the cloisonné pieces themselves. Hayashi Kihyoe is possibly the best example of such a relatively unsung genius.
Possibly the only rival to these vases in quality and magnificence is the two great works in the Khalili Collection, part published in 'The Khalili Collection III - Treasures of Japanese Enamel, Kibo Foundation, Number 74'. The Khalili pieces are probably the largest works of Japanese cloisonné ever made, and were exhibited in the 1893 World Columbian Exhibition in Chicago. The vases were made by Hayashi Kihyoe (the maker of these present vases) and his companion Tsukamoto Gisaburo. Tsukamoto, although not quite in the same league as Hayashi, had also exhibited in several Japanese domestic industrial expositions.
The vases in the sale are decorated subtly with stylised white chrysanthemum blossoms, indicating the Imperial Family context. It is surely a touching tribute to the popularity of the marriage of the young couple that a company like Ando was to provide the wedding gift and were able to make such a free yet restrained use of the Imperial chrysanthemum as part of the overall decoration.
For an illustration of the vase and cover in the Nagoya City Art Museum see Arts of East and West from World Expositions 1855-1900, Paris, Vienna and Chicago, (Tokyo National Museum, 2004), no.1-337