Need help identifying Asian antique.
February 15, 2008 5:59 AM   Subscribe

Help me identify the origin and theme of the decoration of this asian cup and saucer.

My grandmother bought this cup and saucer in the late 1980's in Portugal at an antique shop. Not the fancy antique shop type, more like the neighborhood's old junk shop so no information about it was provided.

Can anyone read the inscription at the bottom of the saucer? (I'm guessing it's the maker's name).

From my googling, this looks like it was inspired by the 8 immortals myth but there's only 6 of them! I don't know much about asian mythology so I may be missing out on something. Or maybe it's just a bad quality export for westerners.
posted by lucia__is__dada to Grab Bag (13 answers total)
Could it be a representation of the six Paramitas?
posted by vacapinta at 6:49 AM on February 15, 2008

I've found Goteborg's Antique Chinese Porcelain help page to be very helpful.
posted by jeanmari at 6:55 AM on February 15, 2008

The name on the bottom looks like 田本谷. I could be wrong about the third character, and I kind of hope that I am because 田本 ("tamoto") is a common enough surname in Japanese, but 田本谷 (would be "tamotoya" or "tamotodani") is not a surname at all (AFAICT), and 谷 is not a given name. That said, I don't know what else it could be.
posted by adamrice at 7:04 AM on February 15, 2008

Response by poster: Could it be a representation of the six Paramitas?

They're bulging eyes and general demon expression don't look very zen to me. Can't quickly find anthropomorphic representations of the perfections on google.

Thanks for the link, jeanmari. I'm not even sure this is chinese, though.

Thanks Adam. Maybe this is Japanese after all.
posted by lucia__is__dada at 7:09 AM on February 15, 2008

Actually, I've seen depictions of Bodidharma in Japan that are very much in this style, and I'm guessing from the halos that the characters are from Buddhism. But I'm not up on my Buddhist stories, so I can't speculate beyond that.
posted by adamrice at 7:31 AM on February 15, 2008

It is definitely Japanese, and probably made specifically for export, most likely in the 19th century. The shape is pretty western, but the inner glaze is what makes me think it is authentic. I am very rusty on my Japanese ceramic traditions, so I cant tell you more without talking out my ass.
posted by BobbyDigital at 9:05 AM on February 15, 2008

I would say that the six figures are bodhisattvas - the middle one with no facial hair looks like Kuan Yin, and one of the others is probably supposed to be Bodhidharma.
posted by casarkos at 9:22 AM on February 15, 2008

Best answer: Hi, I believe it is part of this entire tea set, which is from the Meiji period.

The Trocadero listing is as follows:
Antique Satsuma Tea Service from about 1890 with tea pot, cream and sugar, and 6 cups and saucers. Hand painted in colors and gilt with Rakan (Buddhist disciples), Kannon and dragons in a graceful mixture of compounded hues. Pieces signed with mark on the bottom. Height of tea pot: 6 ? inches. Diameter of saucer: 5 ? inches.
posted by misha at 9:29 AM on February 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks Misha! I think you've got it.

I might add that I found that:
"The circle with a cross that often makes up a part of the marks, are the Shimazu family crest, who ruled Satsuma Han."

"In 1867, the Shimazu clan independently entered some pieces of Satsuma ware in the Great Exhibition in Paris. People in Europe were enchanted and soon the name of Satsuma became known throughout the world."

"As Japan opened trade with the western world Satsuma became very much in demand but this led to the demise of Satsuma as 19th century Satsuma became exuberated and the market was flooded with low quality examples"
posted by lucia__is__dada at 9:36 AM on February 15, 2008

Wow, Misha FTW. Although the mark on the bottom of those is 清山 (probably pronounced "kiyoyama").
posted by adamrice at 9:37 AM on February 15, 2008

Response by poster: Yes, it's not by the same factory but it sure is the same style and motif. Now it's a matter of finding the mark here. Or not. Either way, now I know where it's from and what it represents even if it turns out to be a low quality fake.

I also saw another description of a similar item saying it was the depiction of a geisha and samurais but the halos certainly indicate they're buddhist figures as mentioned from the start by Vacapinta.

Thanks to you all.
posted by lucia__is__dada at 10:03 AM on February 15, 2008

Ah, so the first character in the mark is not a stylized "田" as I thought, it's the cross-in-circle. So the factory is 本谷, which can be pronounced in a variety of ways (Motoya, Honya, Motodani, etc).
posted by adamrice at 10:23 AM on February 15, 2008

Btw, the Gotheburg page linked above has information about Chinese AND Japanese porcelain. Including Japanese marks. There is also a discussion board there where collectors could advise you.
posted by jeanmari at 8:31 PM on February 21, 2008

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