The eye of the collector by Jean-luc Ferrand

The fine Faience of SATSUMA

Tuesday 5 April 2016, by Barbara Cogollos

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Pair of large fine earthenware lamps Satsuma, circa 1880 gilt bronze and carved frame.

Satsuma pottery is a fine earthenware. It is created from a paste opaque clay with a very fine texture and then, it is covered with a lead-glazing. The sets are painted directly on the terracotta, they are never cooked after paintings.

Satsuma earthenware was born in 1598 under the influence of a great Japanese lord named Shimazu Yoshihiro. His intention was to establish in this territory, a local industry Satsuma pottery. The consecration of the Satsuma earthenware begins when they exported in Western countries where the Japanese art in general knows a large success.

Korean technological advances arrived in the territory of Satsuma in the 16th century. Thus it emerged in the region lots of different furnaces. These last one will also be able to accommodate larger pieces of porcelain. Far away from their native country, Korean potters are working in Satsuma and will develop for more than four hundred years, original techniques of ceramic to make one of the greatest references of Japanese ceramics. In Japan, porcelain creations are diverse but however, Satsuma is strongly influenced by fashions came from the imperial capital, Kyoto. For many, Satsuma ceramics evoke white dough pieces with polychrome decorations embellished with gilding. Indeed, it is the most famous and most requested style by Western countries in the late 19th century. It is called "Brocart d’or Satsuma" because of its rich ornaments and the systematic use of the gold color. There are three broad categories of ceramics: white paste sandstone (Shiro Satsuma), black paste of sandstone (Satsuma Kuro) and porcelains (Jiki).

White Satsuma style, named "Brocart d’or", is characterized by a eggshell color with a clear cracked glaze. Its decor, worked in every detail, can be fully ornamented thanks to the use of gold in large quantities. The geometric and abstract forms are associated with realistic illustrations like flowers or birds. The human figure is also used in a similar style of Japanese engraving.

At the end of the 16th century, Korean potters settled in the Satsuma region respond to the demand of utensils for the tea ceremony which enters Japanese standards in the 12th century. This infatuation for tea is growing and an establishment of specific rules dictated by the early masters of tea ceremony will be created. It was during the last quarter of the 16th century that the ceremony reached its peak.

In the 19th century, the Satsuma porcelain was introduced in the Occident particularly, through the Universal Exhibitions. They allow to discover the traditions and creations of countries around the world. In 1867 in Paris, The Satsuma’s craftsmen expose a lot of different techniques and objects from their country. French potters admire the art of Japanese ceramics that they use as a model for their own production. With the Universal Exhibition of 1878 in Paris, the art of Japanese ceramics knows his true consecration. Four hundred exhibitors represented Japan this year. Japanese forms and ornaments were born throughout the Occident. These Universal Expositions are the starting point of a great enthusiasm for Japan which fed the creativity of occidental artists like the earthenware of Creil, Bordeaux or de Gaidan.

Today, Satsuma ceramics are still produced and include a large number of techniques and potters located in Kagoshima department. The tradition of Satsuma black, white and Satsuma porcelain continues. Over two hundred pottery workshops remain true to the quality and technology that has made Satsuma one of the greatest references of Japanese ceramics.

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