Handbook for the Appreciation of Cloisonne

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Handbook for the Appreciation of Cloisonne

Message par Tsubo » 15 Septembre 2022, 12:31

Handbook for the Appreciation of Japanese Traditional Crafts by the Japan Kōgei Association

Shippo, the Japanese term for cloisonne, literally means 'seven jewels' and refers to gold, silver, lapis lazuli, crystal, shako (giant clam), amber and agate.
The technique of firing glassy enamels onto gold, silver or copper bases dates back to the time of Ancient Egypt. Substantial developments took place in the Middle East during the Byzantine period, while fine examples of cloisonne were made in Western Europe during the Middle Ages. Cloisonne technology was introduced to Japan via China and Korea in the Nara Period (710-794). The earliest evidence of the craft is found in metal fittings excavated from tumuli (kofun) graves dating from the 6-7th century and also in the form of mirrors preserved in the Shosoin Treasury. The metal fittings of the Phoenix Hall of the Byodoin Temple in Uji are also famous. The second half of the 19th century saw the invention of new cloisonne techniques by Kaji Tsunekichi (1803-1883) of Owari Province (present day Aichi Prefecture) and the development of translucent enamels by Gottfried Wagner (1831-1892), a German chemist in the employ of the Japanese government. These led to the establishment of important cloisonne industries in Tokyo, Kyoto and Nagoya.

Body and enamels

The bodies of cloisonne items may be made from copper, tando (an alloy of 90% copper and 10% zinc), silver or gold. Of these, copper is the easiest to process and thus the most frequently used. Its coefficient of expansion is such that the enamels adhere particularly well.
Bodies are usually made by hammering, the thickness of their walls being in the region of 0.5-0.7mm.
Enamels are made of powdered silica mixed with red lead and alkaline materials in ratios similar to those used in crystal glass. Differences in degrees of transparency and refractive index result in translucent, semi-translucent and opaque colours.
Enamels are also classified according to the materials used and the type of body, silver or copper for example, for which they are intended.
Due to improvements in technology, there are now several hundred different enamel colours available to the cloisonne artist. These cannot, however, be mixed like oil paints but have to be used separately. Colour, it may be said, is the life and soul of the art of cloisonne.

Principal techniques of cloisonne

Yusen-shippo (cloisonne (with wires)) = The most common form of cloisonne, whose origins lie in China, whereby thin metal wires are fixed to the body in accordance with the design and the areas between them are filled with enamel. When parts of the enamel surface rise above the level of the metal wires, the term moriage-shippo (lit. 'raised cloisonne') is used.
Musen-shippo (wireless cloisonne) = There are two ways of making wireless cloisonne. The first involves the application of enamels to a body to which no wires have been fixed. The second involves the application of enamels to a body to which metal wires have been temporarily fixed followed by the removal of the wires prior to firing. This is a particularly demanding technique.
Dei-shippo = This term is used to describe the opaque, matt enamels of the sort made prior to the development of bright, translucent enamels. They are the ancestors of modern opaque white enamels and are suitable for the creation of works of a subdued character. Dei-shippowares were made in large numbers in the early to mid-Meiji period (1868-1912) and were exported in bulk to the West. They were made with synthetic glazes.
Totai-shippo = Cloisonne wares in which part of the body is cut away and filled with translucent or semi-translucent enamel in contrast to the opaque enamel of the rest of the piece. The resulting effect is similar to that of stained glass.
Shotai-shippo (plique-a-jour) = Cloisonne which, having been made with translucent or semi-translucent enamels in the standard yusen-shippo manner, is dipped in a bath of nitric acid. The metal body dissolves, leaving only the enamels and metal wires.

Terms used

Tojitai-shippo = Cloisonne with a ceramic (as opposed to a normal metal) body.
Shosoin Treasures = Ancient cloisonne work is very rare, but amongst the Shosoin Treasures is a twelve-lobed mirror made of silver whose reverse is richly decorated with cloisonne enamels.