Polished to Perfection: Japanese Cloisonné

from the Collection of Donald K. Gerber and Sueann E. Sherry

Exhibition Website

May 28 2017 - Feb 4 2018

The 1830s marked the beginning of a renaissance in Japanese cloisonné production. Though small objects incorporating enamels were produced in Japan prior to the 19th century, a new generation of artisans developed techniques that enabled the creation of three-dimensional vessels, greater flexibility in surface design, and a number of different enameling styles. During the “golden age” of Japanese cloisonné production (approximately 1880–1910), intricate decorations, sophisticated use of color, expanding varieties of form, and flawless surface finishes became the hallmarks of Japanese cloisonné wares.

Polished to Perfection presents approximately 150 works from the collection of Donald K. Gerber and Sueann E. Sherry. Built over the course of more than four decades, the collection contains works crafted by the most accomplished Japanese cloisonné masters of the time including Namikawa Yasuyuki (1845–1927), Namikawa Sōsuke (1847–1919), Hayashi Kodenji (1831–1915), and Kawade Shibatarō (1856–1921). The artists represented in this exhibition raised the art of cloisonné enamel to a level of unparalleled technical and artistic perfection.

Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website

 Whether you go or not, the exhibition catalog, Polished to Perfection: Japanese Cloisonn‎é from the Collection of Donald K. Gerber and Sueann E. Sherry, features the finest examples of Japanese cloisonné―enameled objects that reflect the exquisite craftsmanship required of the technique as well as the Japanese cultural reverence for meticulous and exacting work. Cloisonné, the art of applying enamel to objects, dates back to the early Byzantine Empire. It then spread rapidly to China, Southeast Asia, Russia, and eventually the whole of the European continent. It is in Japan, however, that the technique was perfected. '

One of the world’s leading collections of Japanese cloisonné is the subject of this beautifully designed book, which celebrates a painstaking process that results in unbelievably intricate, delicate, and breathtaking works of art. The colors, which are separated by hair-thin ribbons of metal, are made of vitreous enamel applied by brush and dropper, and then fired and polished repeatedly until only the thinnest metal wires are visible within a design of brilliant colors. As the movement spread throughout the world, Japan began producing cloisonné in the mid-19th century. Japanese studios turned out exquisite examples of the form, many of which were displayed in numerous international expositions, including the Vienna Exhibition of 1873, where a Japanese cloisonné piece won first prize. The Gerber/Sherry collection is unparalleled in its variety and excellence. Along with exquisitely reproduced illustrations, this book includes a brief historical overview focusing on the work of Namikawa Yasuyuki; an examination of the role the Japanese government played in promoting cloisonné; and the collector’s own story of discovering, falling in love with, and procuring these precious works of art.

Polished to Perfection: Japanese Cloisonn‎é from the Collection of Donald K. Gerber and Sueann E. Sherry

  • Decorative Arts
  • Asian
  • Enamel
  • Japanese
  • Namikawa Yasuyuki
  • Namikawa Sōsuke
  • Hayashi Kodenji
  • Kawade Shibatarō
  • and others

Exhibition Venues & Dates