Koro and cover

c. 1900
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General Description

The arts of Japan during the last half of the 19th century experienced a momentous change when nearly two hundred fifty years of isolation from Western influences ended with the arrival of U.S. Admiral Perry in 1853. In the rush to adopt and assimilate Western ways, many Japanese customs were nearly swept aside, but fortunately artistic traditions of the past often prevailed over the desire to modernize. Now, however, in place of the ancient system of government and aristocratic patronage, artists and artisans were producing items primarily for export. As a result, much of their output was influenced by western taste.

While decorative arts such as metal and lacquerwares were direct descendants of Edo-period skills, the art of cloisonné was a relatively new industry. Cloisonné makers of anything of significant scale are not recorded in Japan until the 1830s. Nevertheless the craft developed at a remarkable level during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when three major workshops of cloisonné enamels were located in Nagoya. This large covered koro, or incense burner, has been attributed to the Nagoya workshop of Ando Jubei.

The decorative program of the koro is very intricate. Pheasants under a flowering cherry tree intertwined with wisteria, on one side, and pigeons and sparrows in a maple tree, on the reverse, are worked in many colors on a dark blue ground. The perforated cover, through which smoke escaped, features butterflies on a ground of scrolls and flowers, while the shaped foot is decorated with bands of flowers and geometric patterns above large butterflies.

Excerpt from

  • Bonnie Pitman, ed., "Koro and cover," in Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012), 48.