Antique Japanese Silver & Iron Vases,
with Complex Inlay, (A Pair),
Meiji Period, Japan – 19th century

A striking pair of Japanese iron vases; the shape of the vases is derived from the classic Chinese mei ping vase and they have been ornamented with complex and intricate silver wire inlay. The decoration to the necks of the vases differ to the bodies, providing contrast and distinction between the two areas.

The necks of both vases show traces of gilding and feature a three-toed dragon flying amongst the clouds.  The Japanese have two basic types of dragon; one inhabits the water and the other is found amongst the clouds in the sky.  Typically, as demonstrated in these vases, the dragon is portrayed as long and slender like a snake with facial whiskers and is said to be a composite of nine different animals.  The space around the elements creates calm and tranquility opposing the busy, almost frenetic, tightly packed designs ornamenting the bodies below.

The bodies of the vases have been ornamented all over from the very bottom of the vases to the base of the neck, with one pattern ending where the next begins, without space between.  They present a tantalising range of complex geometric elements including basket weave designs, spirals within lozenges, interlocking keys, checker board designs, stylised flowers within hexagons, auspicious symbols etc.

This array of geometric patterning abruptly merges at points with more stylised and naturalistic renditions of flowers, foliage, cobwebs and ho-ho birds flying in the rain past floral tendrils.  This combination of the geometric and naturalistic also provides a pleasing counterpoint as well as demonstrating the skills and virtuosity of the maker.

In the Japanese tradition, the dragon is seen as a symbol of wealth and power and the dragon is also considered to be the counterpart of the ho-ho bird or phoenix.  When both the dragon and phoenix are present, they represent wedded bliss with the dragon standing for the male and the phoenix for the female.  It is therefore very likely that these vases were commissioned for a wedding present.

 Provenance:        European Art Market

Size:                         Height:  15 cms, Width:  7 cms

References:

Request Price