THE SMART COLLECTOR

Kutani porcelain popular with collectors

George Washington executed and signed this 1749 survey of 140 land grant acres in Virginia. Along with a historic letter, the plat sold for $101,575 recently at Heritage Auctions in Dallas.
Photo courtesy of www.ha.com
George Washington executed and signed this 1749 survey of 140 land grant acres in Virginia. Along with a historic letter, the plat sold for $101,575 recently at Heritage Auctions in Dallas.
Posted June 17, 2011, at 4:35 p.m.

Q: I saw your column on Asian art. Can you give me any info on these items I have?

A: Viewed in a series of images, the reader has examples of Japanese ceramics. Not considered a fine art, they fit into the category of decorative Asian ceramics.

Andrew Lick, Asian works of art specialist at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers in Chicago, recently closed a $4.5 million sale of Chinese, Japanese and East Asian art and decorative wares.

We’ve said it here before: Chinese arts are in a boom period. Traditional pieces are hotly pursued by mainland collectors with a fervor that’s beginning to include quality decorative wares, as well.

Japanese ceramics and wares were not part of that boom, but we’re beginning to see prices for the best beginning to escalate, too.

To the untrained eye, the reader’s ceramics are very different. One is a handled, basketlike pouring vessel with a spout formed like a bird’s head. Decorated with rust-red glaze and red flowers on a white breast, it has liberal gold decoration.

Another is a white glazed pitcher or ewer painted with Oriental-style leaves and, perhaps, a bird. Hard to make out. And there’s an 8-inch Japanese-style teapot with Western-style handled cups and saucers. The mix of styles indicates that it was made for export. The tea set is decorated with sketchy hand-painted Oriental birds and foliage.

Different as the pieces look, all are Japanese porcelains, said Lick.

The pouring vessel is Kutani, a pottery style named for a territory in Japan. As with any product that has had a very long run, looks vary dramatically.

The oldest Kutani, going back to the mid-1600s, is art pottery. Painted porcelains from that era are considered fine Japanese painted porcelain.

By the late 1800s, large amounts of Kutani were made expressly for export. It is made to this day, in both traditional Japanese style and with Western influences.

While Kutani is defined by colors and hand-painted brushwork, early pieces came with incised lines and in specific colors. A later variant looks very much like Imari, with liberal use of gold. Collectors often mistakenly ID the style as Satsuma, but Satsuma is something different. Later pieces with a red ground, such as the reader’s pouring vessel with gold, show Chinese influence.

Earlier Japanese wares, Kutani and others, have marks that are characters. Contemporary Kutani, usually marked in English, does not have the quality of earlier work.

Based on the clear images and marks provided (thanks!), Lick told us that all of the reader’s porcelains date from the 19th to early 20th century. Because that was a time when quantities were made for export, many still survive in “fairly high amounts,” as he put it.

Because so many still exist, retail and auction results are in the $100 range for each. The pouring vessel is the most sellable of the lot.

Q: My mother got this lamp as a wedding present almost 100 years ago. I want to give it to my granddaughter but need to insure it first. Can you help with value?

A: The reader adds that his lamp base is 10 inches high. Seen in photos, it’s an ivory ceramic two-tiered column on a pierced metal base. Topped with a contemporary silk shade, the base is decorated with applied pink ceramic roses and blue forget-me-nots. Gold leaves and striping complete the picture.

I’m wondering about the age provided, because the lamp looks more 1940s than earlier. I peg the base as pre-WWII. The rewiring is much later.

Value is as a decorative object, under $100. Household insurance will take care of coverage.

Auction action

A 1749 hand-drawn and hand-colored plat of 140 acres in Virginia done and signed by 17-year-old George Washington brought $101,575 in a recent sale of Americana and political memorabilia at Heritage Auctions in Dallas. The plat sold with a letter by William Fairfax, authorizing the teen, who became known as the father of our country, to survey and plat the land grant.

Washington’s early works as a surveyor, particularly hand-colored and single page, are highly collectible. Washington’s personal compass and Gunter’s scale (a measuring tool) from the same era brought $59,750 and $41,825.

Collector quiz

Q: Smart collectors know that Kutani has several classifications, or subgroups. Can you match the types with their descriptions?

1. Ko Kutani

2. Ao Kutani

3. Saiko Kutani

a. Green Kutani

b. 19th century Kutani made primarily in Kaga

c. Old Kutani, 1639-1694

A: Answers are 1-c, 2-a, 3-b

Danielle Arnet will answer questions of general interest in her column. Send email to smartcollector@comcast.net or write Danielle Arnet, c/o Tribune Media Services, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 1400, Chicago, IL 60611. Include an address in your query. Photos cannot be returned.

 

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