Manufacturer Rookwood Pottery Company American
Decorator Kataro Shirayamadani American, born Japan

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 707

The Rookwood Pottery, founded by Maria Longworth Nichols in 1880, became one of the most significant and longest surviving of all American art potteries, remaining in operation until well after World War II. During Rookwood’s early years, Nichols made significant contributions to work in the barbotine manner, a technique of using pigmented slip applied in a painterly fashion under a clear glaze. In 1887 Kataro Shirayamadani, a Japanese porcelain painter, who was hired to broaden the pottery’s offerings of work in the Japanesque style. While a talented artist, Shirayamadani had no previous experience in underglaze painting, but quickly became one of the pottery’s most accomplished decorators in this technique.

In contrast to Nichols’s earlier, naively drawn Japanesque motifs found of Rookwood's wares (see 1981.443, 1991.214, and 2018.294.215), Shirayamadani’s sophistically executed decoration on this Greek amphora-shaped vase embodies Japanese aesthetic sensibilities. Depicting clouds and an elaborately detailed dragon whose body encircles and enhances the vase’s bulbous form, the design appears to be based on an earlier rendering by the artist, now in the collection of the Oakland Museum of California. Finely painted in raised, subtly tinted slip, the imagery on the vase was delicately enhanced by carving some of the finer details with a stylus. The design was then covered with Rookwood’s amber-colored Standard glaze.

Among the vase’s many admirers was Edwin Atlee Barber, then the country's leading ceramics historian, who purchased it in 1888 for the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Art (today the Philadelphia Museum of Art), where he served as curator and later director. Barber even included a line drawing of this vase in his seminal 1893 publication, The Pottery and Porcelain of the United States. It still bears its original price sticker of $35, a handsome sum at the time (nearly $1,000 today) and befitting its extensive, exquisitely wrought decoration.

Vase, Rookwood Pottery Company (American, Cincinnati, Ohio 1880–1967), Earthenware, American

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