Cloisonné Enamelled Vase

From a collection of Japanese dishes and vases donated to the Museum in 1876 by the Victorian art, pottery and fossil collector, Henry Willett.

This vase comes from the collection of several cloisonné plates and vases which were given to Ruskin in 1876 by Mr Henry Willett. Willet was a friend, as well as a fellow naturalist and geologist. Willet also donated objects to the Brighton Museum.

Cloisonné is an ancient technique used to decorate objects in colourful patterns. It was developed in Asia and is particularly common in Chinese decoration. The term ‘cloisonné’ can also be used to describe the finished object.

The object for decoration, such as a plate, vase or piece of jewellery, is generally made of brass, copper or silver. The artist attaches small metal strips, called ‘cloisons’ or pieces of wire to the object to mark out the pattern and create the areas which are to hold colour. The cloisons or wires are attached first with gum and then the object is fired to attach the outline pattern more securely.

Coloured and powdered glass and paste are combined to create ‘frit’ and the artist paints the frit into the empty spaces created by the cloisons.

The whole object is then fired and polished, revealing a coloured glassy design on the finished object.

Ruskin on the Willett's Gift

Ruskin comments on Willett's gift in Letter 64 (April 1876) of Fors Clavigera:

'a quite magnificent gift of modern Japanese inlaid work to our Sheffield Museum, from my kind friend Mr. Henry Willett, of Arnold House, Brighton. A series of some fifty pieces was offered by him for our selection: but I have only accepted a tithe of them, thinking that the fewer examples of each school we possess, the better we shall learn from them. Three out of the five piece I have accepted are of quite unsurpassable beauty, and the two others of extreme interest. They are sent to the Curator at Sheffield' (Works, 28, p. 576)

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