Pair of Meiji period Satsuma earthenware vases


The richly decorated pair of vases celebrate the craftsmanship of Japanese makers, and their design carries important symbolic meanings.


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Showcasing the skill of Chinese craftsmen, this superb pair of vases was crafted in the early 20th century during the Meiji period. A plethora of symbolic decoration adorns their bodies, filling the pieces not only with beauty but also with meaning.

The vase bodies are of an unusual shape, tapering towards the bottom. The bulbous upper part is topped by a rectangular lid. A foo dog (also known as Shi or a lion) with paws on top of a ball representing Earth is crowning each cover. This is a protective statue, guarding its owner against evil. The paw over the ball is symbolic of the foo dog’s complete control over circumstances, and it is usually the male that is depicted in such a pose. Two Japanese figures, possibly karako (children), act as the handles. They are depicted holding onto the edge of the vase, looking upwards as if gazing at the user or the foo dog.

Decorating the pair throughout is a selection of very detailed gilt as well as painted scenes and motifs. Hand-painted groups of noblemen in traditional dress adorn the two larger sides of the vases. A rich gilt composition surrounds the noblemen creating an aura of importance and wealth. Each scene is slightly different showcasing the noblemaen in different poses and clothing. The two smaller sides include a prominent white circle filled with gold foliate motifs. Eight strips with various geometric patterns act as the background for the central circle. The colour palette is muted, with shades of red, brown, cream, and white predominating, however, the abundance of gilding ensures the pieces emanate a luxurious feel.

The pieces stand on four shaped and splayed legs. These are also decorated with gilt swirling, nature-inspired motifs.

Satsuma wares were popular from the 1870s until the early 20th century, when Japanese craftsmen were encouraged to sell their goods to the West. Pieces like the pair of vases in Mayfair Gallery’s collection were exhibited at numerous international exhibitions fuelling the Western world’s desire to own Japanese objects.

This fine pair of Satsuma vases would make an outstanding addition to one’s collection of Japanese antiques.


Country of Origin
Date of Manufacture
Early 20th Century
Early 20th Century
Japanese Interest, Japonisme, Meiji
Earthenware, Gilt
Gold, Multi-coloured


36 cm / 14.2 inches
23 cm / 9.1 inches
15 cm / 5.9 inches


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