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Yellow vase

I have recently acquired a porcelain vase. It is badly damaged and was covered in brown paint when I acquired it.

I believe it was originally bought some time between 1930-1940 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Any information that you could impart to me would be greatly appreciated.

Japanese "Makuzu Kozan" piece

Thank you for the pictures of your quite interesting vase.

The decoration as well as its shape are quite modern in style and not really what I would expect of a Chinese porcelain piece, so the thought that it might instead be Japanese, is not far away.

The mark could be read both in Japanese and in Chinese. If read in Chinese, it would read "Xia Ge Xiang Shan" (a potter's name?) Zhi (made). If considered to be in Japanese, it would be the name "Makuzu Kozan".

Miyagawa (Makuzu) Kozan (1842-1916) was appointed artist to the Japanese Imperial household and was one of the greatest potters of the Meiji Era. He came from a long line of potters based in Kyoto and took over the family business in 1860, at the age of nineteen, In 1870 he opened a workshop in Yokohama and seems to have arriwed at his artistic height during the 1880ís. Pieces signed "Makuzu Kozan" in warious hands seems to have been made right up until the first decades of the 20th century.

If this vase indeed is a "Makuzu Kozan" is unfortunately beyond me to decide. From my point of view, based on the reddish foot rim of the vase I would rather be prepared to guess it is a Chinese piece after all and for a date suggest the 20th century. Against this speaks the underglaze blue line that encircles the foot rim which in that case would be a very unusual feature.

Further comments and expertice on this interesting piece is seriously invited.

Jan-Erik Nilsson

Consultation and translation of the Chinese characters, courtesy of Simon Ng, City University of Hong Kong. For the identification of the "Makuzu Kozan" mark I am fully indebted to Mr. Alan Smith.

In April 2005, I received this interesting comment by Chris Fullelove

Dear Mr. Nilsson,

By sheer chance I saw an item on your website referring to a "duck vase". For what the extent of my knowledge is worth perhaps you might wish to pass it on to the person enquiring. They are of course geese. The signature is difficult to read from the photo but I believe it reads Makuzu gama Kozan sei. It is typical of the yellow underglaze the studio perfected later than circa 1893.

The style, execution etc., are characteristic of the quality export work done after Kozan One retired (actually he died in 1916) and Hanzan (his stepson & nephew) took charge of the studio although he had much influenced the output from circa 1895. Against a date as late as 1920-1940 the extended signature including "gama", if indeed that is the signature, was used as early as 1894. However the quality of the underglaze yellow as early as that was much more muted.

Reference the yellow glaze jar with plum branches dated 1893 Tokyo National Museum. Pieces dating to 1897 are comparable in the perfection of this yellow glaze though. I have little doubts that the vase is correct and could easily date between 1900 and 1940. The base lacks the trade mark chatter marks of Hanzan from circa 1920, who also often signed within a double circle a la Kangxi style. I could therefore be persuaded it is Makuzu Kozan studio work and as late as 1930-40 or there is a smaller possibility it could be as early as 1897-1900. Hardly a safe judgement from the photos provided. It certainly would not date it to Hanzans son(s) Kozan 3 & 4. Kozan 3 did little to drive the studio forward before being killed in 1940 and the studio under Kozan 4 ceased production by 1950

Its is very sad to see such a piece come to such a low state. I hope the owner will seek a professional restoration, well worth it I imagine. I will leave others to determine what it might have been worth in good order. For what its worth I think it absolutely genuine. I can do no better than point the interested individual to the publication 'Master Potter of Meiji Japan' by Clare Pollard as an excellent starting point to understanding the work of the studio. There are several exhibition catalogues available which do much to point up this vase as typical of the studios works.

Sorry to interfere but as no one seemed to have offered a better opinion I thought to mail you. If they have my apologies. If I can be any further help to a genuine enquirer please forward my email to the person Hope you keep well. No doubt I shall see something on your website I like one day and we will speak again. Until then

Best Regards
Chris Fullelove,
Kidderminster, Worcestershire, UK