Ishii Vases, Meiji Period (Japan), 1868-1912, 24"x 18"
Two large enameled vases stand on top of the teakwood chests on either side of the north wall fireplace. The vases are cloisonné, dating from the Meiji period of Japan. The Meiji, or "enlightened rule" period lasted from 1868 to 1912, when the feudalistic shogunate was overthrown in favor of a constitutionally selected emperor.
Cloisonné is an ancient process in which enameling partitions, cloisons, are constructed on a thin sheet of metal by attaching metal strips edgewise. The cloisons are then filled with glass or enamel paste, sometimes with gemstones, and fired. The enamels shrink while cooling and the process is repeated until the surfaces are level.
This pair of vases has a taupe background, adorned with hibiscus bushes, filled with white blooms and thrush-like birds both in flight and perching in the branches. The lush leaves climb from the base up the vases, in shades of greens and teals. The detailing is fine and intricate, with cloisons minutely defined. At the neck and the base, symmetrical patterns incorporate floral and geometric motifs in colors of green, ochre, sienna, and black. These vases were bequeathed to the library in the will of Mrs. James A. Thomas.
NOTE: Japanese Special Envoy Ishii Kikujiro originally presented these vases to Secretary of State Robert Lansing in 1917. The Lansing-Ishii Agreement resulted from correspondence, conducted throughout 1917, between the two representatives, and amounted to a joint United States-Japanese declaration that recognized Japanese special interests in China, while it also ostensibly affirmed Chinese territorial integrity, an "open door" policy, and equal opportunity in commerce and industry. Disagreement over the interpretation of this declaration arose as the United States insisted that Japan's interest had to be confined solely to economics and could not extend into the political sphere. As a result, the Lansing-Ishii Agreement was abrogated in 1923.
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