Cloisonne Glossary

Here is a selection of vocabulary terms: in English, French, Chinese and Japanese, often used in the description of Oriental cloisonne items.

AKASUKE: red Japanese translucent enamel also called ‘pigeon blood’.

ATTRIBUTED: unsigned or marked piece of cloisonne which is most likely the product of a specific craftsman due to a high level of positive comparison. The examples here, a pair of signed bottles made by Namikawa Yasuyuki of Kyoto and an unsigned tray with very similar enamel colors, design and motifs.

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Japanese Cloisonne History

Photo courtesy of Bonhams

Japan was isolated by choice for 2 centuries (1650-1850), it’s closed borders allowed only a few ports for trading or emigration with China and Korea. This practice was meant to keep out the aggressive religious influences, pushy international traders, and ensuing political and commercial upheavals. There was some cloisonne usage and production by the Hirata family during those years. These pieces were small decorative panels applied to sword guards, small mirrors, and furniture implements.

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