At the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1867 the Japanese pavilion featured 145 exhibitors, and included a large display of objects from Satsuma, the southernmost of Japan’s four main islands. Following the success of the exhibition, Satsuma wares, that are characterised by intricate painted decoration, were exported on a large scale to the West. During the Meiji period (1868-1912), when this teapot was created, Japan was taking advantage of the new trading links with the West that were established after the end of almost two hundred years of seclusion. As a result, enthusiasm for Japanese art and crafts, known commonly as Japonisme, became widespread and had a profound effect on Western art and design.
The makers mark, unusually placed on the spout, indicates that this teapot is by Meizan, one of the foremost painters of Satsuma wares during the Meiji period. The richly gilded decoration on this example consists of two patterns known as kiku-zukushi and cho-zukushi, ‘myriad of butterflies and chrysanthemums’. The word zukushi can be translated into English as ‘full of things’. In Japanese, its character is a homophone for ‘abundance’. According to East-Asian legend, chrysanthemum blossoms produce the nectar of longevity, while butterflies are regarded as a symbol of love, femininity, rebirth and eternity. The teapot is further enhanced with geometric patterns and auspicious designs such as the kikko mon (tortoise shell patterns) and shippo mon (seven treasures linked patterns).