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. 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 Europe and America.
This example depicts the Japanese Immortals, wise men revered for their knowledge and power who were of such greatness that they could not die. Their inclusion in Japanese art was said to bring luck and good fortune. The base of the teapot includes the Shimazu Mon mark, the crest of the family that ruled Satsuma.