ARTIST / MAKER: Yabu Meizan (painter)
DATE: late 19th-early 20th century (made)
PLACE: Japan (made)
MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES: Earthenware painted in enamels and gilt

Satsuma ware is a type of Japanese ceramic, originally made by Korean potters who emigrated to the Southern province of Satsuma around 1600. Although early Satsuma wares were made from dark and plainly decorated clays, the name of this style is today associated with elaborately decorated, ivory-coloured ceramics. Satsuma wares shown at the 1867 Exposition Universelle de Paris and the Vienna International Exposition of 1873 were greatly admired and became highly sought after in the West. Using gilding, coloured enamels and a crackled glaze, potters across Japan developed intricate painting techniques to cater to this considerable demand.

This Satsuma teapot was made by Yabu Meizan (1853-1934), one of the most accomplished Satsuma painters. After training as a ceramic decorator in Awaji and Tokyo, Yabu Meizan set up his business in Osaka, where he employed around 15 artists to decorate blank earthenware with fine Satsuma ornament. Highly acclaimed both in Japan and the wider world, he served on the judging committee of the Japan-British exhibition in 1910 and displayed many of his workshop’s wares at international expositions. This teapot bears two framed scenes unrelated to each other. One side features fishermen drifting in their boats along the banks of Miyajima, the ‘shrine island’ in Hiroshima bay (western Japan). The large torii (gateway) which becomes partially submerged at high tide is here depicted rising right above the water, with the famed Shinto shrine to its left. The reverse shows a long procession of daimyō (feudal lords). From 1635 until 1862, all daimyō and their families were required to make an annual journey to Edo (modern Tokyo) to pay their respects to the shogun, or military ruler of Japan. The purpose of this annual event, known as Sankin-kōtai, was to strengthen control over the hundreds of feudal lords across Japan. These processions to Edo, known as daimyō gyoretsu, were carefully organised formations including the lead daimyō, mounted and unmounted samurai, banner carriers, personal attendants, and porters bearing appropriate gifts for the shogun (military ruler).