NEW PAGE:Illustrated Glossary of Satsuma pottery and related terms and topics
In this "Illustrated Glossary," we provide a list of terms and concepts that every collector of Satsuma pottery encounters with some frequency when searching for information on ceramic terminology or the historical context concerning Satsuma. You can search using the English term or the Japanese term written in Latin script or with kanji. Each term is provided with some illustrative images. We hope you will find it useful.
With some regularity visitors of this website send us pictures of their own Satsuma piece. Sometimes it’s a high quality piece, sometimes it’s of less quality but memorable because of an interesting history. If you also own such a special Satsuma piece, high in quality or with a good story to tell about, please let us know at: info@satsuma-database . We gladly gives you the opportunity to show your Satsuma to a wider audience than is possible in your own display cabinet. Collectors and other Satsuma-enthusiasts will certainly appreciate your contribution. I. We start this "Satsuma on Display" page with a contribution of a British collector. 2. Although work by Naruse Seishi is quite rare, we received within a short period of time a second piece of this great master of Satsuma ware. On this new page we show a tray of superb quality owned by Canadian collector, Mr Tom Pelchat. See it on: Satsuma on Display-2 3. NEW: The history of Satsuma and other antiques is not limited to the product’s intrinsic value, but also how it ended up with the current owner. Though not always rare or especially valuable, they can be priceless for the owner by its story. Mary MacGregor of La Quinta, California, sent us such a story of her Satsuma tea set and vase which she inherited from her sea-captain grandfather, Charles Lewis MacGregor. He received the items in gratitude for saving the lives of 47 Japanese officers and sailors aboard the sinking freighter Kyosei Maru in 1924. We’re happy to share with you this story. See it on: Satsuma on Display-3 4. NEW. Satsuma ware can be beautiful, but can also raise many questions with the owner. In "What's in a name?" we show an unmarked vase of a Polish collector, with an intriguing panel and two beautiful paintings. The search for answers is not yet complete, but even without those answers it is a pleasure to look at. Update 03-15--2022. Curious to know the answer to the question: What is depicted on this vase? Read it on Satsuma on Display-4
The history of Japan, and thus of Satsuma ceramics, is complex and includes many events. A chronology in which all these events are described in their order of occurrence over time is therefore useful. From the Canadian collector mr. John Henley, specialized in Noritake and Nippon ware, we received permission to put such a chronology on our website. We are pleased with his contribution, which, however extensive, can be seen as a starting document. After all, the history of Japan and Satsuma ceramics has many events worth mentioning. An update will therefore be made on a regular basis. See it on the history page, and scroll down.
A new update of the Martin Michels Look It Up-file with over 200 new names added.
"Satsuma: the joy of beauty" offers you a data-base on Satsuma marks and makers. The database might be helpfull for collectors to identify their satsuma-earthenware. The database is free to use for anyone who is interested.
The Satsuma Database and what's in it
The Satsuma database consists of three files:
The Marks & makers data file gives you (at the moment) about 2000 marks and signatures of 500 makersof Satsumaware.
Examples of the work that each of these makers has produced or decorated can be found
in the Makers: examples data file.
The Look it up data file is an extensive list of over 2,000 makersof Japanese ceramics. The names are written in both Latin script and kanji. It helps you to find the maker of your own Satsuma, even when you have identified only one character of the mark on it. Once you have
found the name of a maker, you can also see if it is an individual maker or a company name, and get an indication of the period in which it was made. The file was created by mr. Martin Michels, Japantiek.nl and
is part of his huge collection of brands and signatures on Japanese ceramics. Satsuma: the joy of beauty is grateful to have his permission to share it with you.
For questions, comments or suggestions, please contact:
This website is constantly evolving. The database will be updated regularly.
About this site
Once you have discovered the beauty of Satsuma pottery, you will cherish it all your life. Satsuma earthenware can be enchantingly beautiful, impressive in form and precise execution of the decoration and at its best they are true masterpieces. Satsuma
pottery is also available, the range is large, the prices are very acceptable compared to other works of art and antiques, which means that a good collection can be built up quickly. So far the good news. The bad news is that although the supply is large,
the quality thereof is 99 percent mediocre to poor. That is also the challenge for the collector of Satsuma earthenware: finding a Satsuma gem among countless misproducts, recognizing the beauty and quality that is contained in a miniature vase of only 8 cm
tall, and then being able to get it for a few hundred euros, is extremely satisfying.
The big question is: how do you recognize the quality of such an object? What are the criteria you should pay attention to? How do you really recognize counterfeiting,
good quality from mediocre or worse. This website attempts to be an aid in the identification of Satsuma earthenware that is collectible. The interpretation of the term "collectible" is up to the collector him/herself, everyone uses his own criteria. This
website uses the criteria of this author. It has no further pretentions and aims no more than sharing knowledge and experiences gained during this search for good-quality Satsuma pottery. It is clear that the acquisition of this knowledge involves an ongoing
process. That this search also includes wrongly taken paths, mistakes and errors I take for granted, that is inherent to a search.
Some remarks on Satsuma
Satsuma is the name of both a municipality and a former province of Japan, located in the current Kagoshima prefecture. Satsuma is therefore a geographical indication, which became the sortname for a type of pottery that is called Satsuma yaki. This
kind of pottery was made from a type of clay that can be found in Satsuma. However, Satsuma yaki was and is not only produced in Satsuma.
Most Satsuma pottery found in the west is of very poor quality. These are export products that were being massively
exported from Japan in the first half of the last century. Colorful saucers, table lamps and complete dinnerware, often with gold and thickly applied glaze, the so-called morriage, and decorations on which gods and dragons, geishas and samurai are prominently
depicted: on the internet they are offered by hundreds, mostly coming from the household estates of parents or grandparents, and purchased in the 1930s or later. It is a form of Satsuma that was produced in Japan at that time and exported to the west by hundreds
of thousands. The heydays of the real Satsuma was already over by then, the period in which time played no role and craftsmanship was given a continuation in which only in the cheapest possible way, therefore quickly and in large numbers, was proclaimed to
meet the enormous demand from the West.
Although many pieces are provided with a maker's name, be aware that this is always secundary to quality. The name can relate to the maker, but also to the pottery in which it originates. In a number of cases
also as a homage to a valued master painter and again in a number of cases a conscious counterfeit. Satsuma was one of Japan's most successful export products in the Meiji era and subsequent years. In Japan itself people were hardly interested in this. The
lavishly decorated Satsuma products, entirely focused on Western taste, did not fit in with the aesthetic standards used in Japan.
Satsuma pottery was produced in large numbers by mostly anonymous makers, a number of these potteries / makers are known
for the high quality of their products. Other potteries mainly produced mass goods aimed at tourists. A lot of high-quality work was not signed. This applies in particular to the early work from 1854 and the period referred to as Meiji (1868-1916), under the
reign of Emperor Mutsuhito. Because the foreigners, in particular, wanted to see a brand or maker's name, this was increasingly applied from the years that Japan opened itself up to foreigners. Following an exhibition in Paris in 1867 in which Satsumawerk
presented work, there is an explosive demand for Japanese pottery. In order to meet the high demand, the quality standards were systematically lowered to a point where one can only speak of mass production, but with signature. Sometimes the name of great masters
was used deliberately, sometimes only the name of the pottery, or simply the addition that the product concerned Satsuma work. Quality is therefore the most important indicator in the assessment of Satsuma works, not the makers name.
Characteristics of Satsuma
• Satsuma is earthenware, not porcelain. The difference between earthenware and porcelain is the porosity of the clay. This is clearly visible at the bottom or back, the unglazed part. Porcelain is white, hard and smooth in structure. Satsuma clay
has a somewhat creamy, ivory color and feels rougher. Satsuma clay is originally ferrous, and would turn dark after baking. Systematic dilution removes the iron from the clay, leaving clay that turns out to be nicely ivory after baking (Satsuma-white, there
is also Satuma-black, clay that turns very dark, almost black after baking).
• Satsuma has a very fine-grained crackle on the whole piece. This is a deliberately applied effect: the thinly applied glaze cracks as soon as the piece is removed from
the oven, this deepens the colors. Satsuma is sometimes also treated with sludge before glazing, this is called moriage.
• The colors are applied after the glaze (top glaze), this also applies to the gold-plated parts, which are applied both before
and after the colors. From 1900, the gold appears to be applied much thinner, almost flat. Among other things because the liquid gilding, initially invented by Meissen, is used more often. Satsuma work with this refined painting is therefore usually from after
The production process step by step:
The form is modeled in the clay.
The modeled form is dried.
The object is baked at around 700-800 degrees.
The object is glazed blank.
The object is baked
again at 1200 degrees.
The object is removed from the oven with the glaze shrinking and crackling. characteristic of Satsuma pottery.
The design is applied in black.
The object is baked again.
The colors are applied.
It is baked again at around 1000 degrees.
The gold is applied.
The object is baked at 600 degrees to harden the gold.
The object is polished with a special brush to make the gold shiny.
Good books and useful links
This site does not provide the full history of Satsuma pottery. The historical background and development of Satsuma ware can be found on the internet or in books. For those who are interested, some recommended books and helpful links.
Louis Lawrence. "Satsuma: The Romance of Japan" - Meiji Satsuma Publications 2011
Thomas S. Kiernan: "The Best Book on Satsuma: Over 300 Marks and Signatures" - Kiernan 2008
Sandra Andacht: "Treasury of Satsuma"
- Wallace-Homestead Book 1981
Irene Stitt: "Japanese Ceramics of the Last 100 Years" - Crown Pub 1975
Maria Penkala: "A survey of Japanese ceramics: A handbook for the collector" - Interbook International 1980
James Lord Bowes: "Japanese
Marks & Seals in Literature and the Arts" - Shambhala Publications Inc 2001 (fascimile print from 1882) Free download here: Bowes Marks
Edward S. Morse: "Japan Day by Day, 1877, 1878-79-1882-83." - Boston 1917. An extensive time travel through Japan in the Meiji period. Detailed description with
a lot of illustration of daily life. Free download here: Volume I and Volume
Edward S. Morse: " Catalogue of the Morse collection of Japanese pottery," - Cambridge 1901. Extensive description of the Morse collection in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, with over 1500 potters names. Free download here: Morse catalogue.
Experts and collectors
www: Japantiek.nl presents a private collection
of Japanese earthenware and porcelain and other antiques and collectables. What’s more: you can consult the owner for all your questions concerning marks on Japanese porcelain, including Satsuma-yaki. It’s free of charge!
www.Gotheborg.com presents an comprehensive overview of antique Chinese and Japanese porcelain, offering information about historical background, marks and makers and a glossary of terms. A not-for-free consultation for your Satsuma
ware is available.
https://www.kutani.org is a very extensive website on Kutani ware, both antique and modern, and gives you the opportunity of identifying marks and makers names by using their database (not
www.artelino.com is specialized on Japanese printmaking, and offers you hundreds of beautiful prints, and a data-base with over 650 artists-names ands
signatures. Although not Satsuma or even earthenware, interesting enough since motifs of prints also can be seen on Satsuma.
https://www.asianart.com hosts the Asian
Arts Forum, a private forum owned by Asianart.com dedicated to questions and discussions of Chinese and Japanese art and inscriptions, South Asian Art, and Asian Art in general. Visitors will see that the forum is frequented by several knowledgeable scholars,
dealers and enthusiasts who are willing to share their knowledge.
http://www.jameelcentre.ashmolean.org The Eastern Art collections at the Ashmolean comprise around 30,000 objects including
ceramics, textiles, sculpture, metalwork, paintings, prints, and other decorative arts. Predominantly from Asia and the Middle East, the collection spans over 5,000 years of cultural and artistic development.
www.johnhenley.academia.edu : A website
with interesting articles on Japonism, Kinkozan, Morimura Brother, Noritake and more by Canadian collector John Henley.
Dealers and sellers
www: rubylane.com is the home
for thousands of independent shopowners offering antiques, vintages colectables and works of art, pre-screened by an in-house team of art and antiques professionals (what is also the main difference with e-bay)
www: Trocadero.com: presents many high quality Satsuma ware, offered by specialized artdealers.
There are many auction sites, where upcoming auctions or the results of past auctions are presented. All these
are search engines for art, antiques and collectibles from hundreds of auction houses around the world, offering an huge amount of Satsuma ware sold recently or in the past by auctionhouses all over the world. You can search in catalogues for upcoming auctions
or in archives for sold auctions. Most of them give you also an idea of the value by estimate or sold price.