This week we are very excited to offer a hard to find antique Nippon piece, a Victorian Couple portrait ewer. This is the only portrait Nippon item that we have ran across in our client’s large collection.
According to Joan Van Patten in her ABC’s of Collecting Nippon book, portrait vases are one of the hottest and rarest items for Nippon collectors to acquire. Those that are done in cobalt blue or feature coralene are most sought after and can command very high prices. The ewer we have has neither, but it is still a beautiful piece, don’t you think?
This pretty ewer is done in shades of pink, magenta, teal, and cream with heavy gold accents. The Vicotorian Couple is very sweet, with the man bending down to tip his feathered cap to the lady who has a basket on her arm. Van Patten states that these portraits were actually transfer print “decalcomanias” and were not painted on, since they thought the Japanese painters would not be able to paint “Western” features on the faces. These decalcomanias are now called penny transfers, and can be found almost everywhere.
Many pieces are like this one, with no particular person of interest decaled on to the ewer, but more popular portrait pieces include Queen Louise, Marie de Medici, Madame Lebrun, Madame Recamier, Empress Josephine de Beauharnais (Napoleon’s wife), Marie Antoinette, Countess Ann Potocka, and other beautiful women. Also featured is one man, the Cardinal. You can tell the difference between a transfer decal and hand painting by using a magnifying glass and looking for tiny dots that make up the portrait.
Our piece has no backstamp. Perhaps this is one of the pieces that had a paper label? It does not appear that it has been scratched off, and it is unmistakably Nippon, as you can find similar ewers in Van Patten’s books (with different designs). Van Patten states that most portrait items were made between 1891 and 1911.