Identifying pottery from Japan of the late 1700s is not only a matter of understanding and knowing the proper pottery marks, although that is an integral part of the process. There are also discerning features such as colour, shape and material that mark a piece as having its origin in the latter half of the 16th century. Cultural factors that are reflected in Japanese pottery designs of this time period include Dutch and Chinese influences.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Well-lit area
- Magnifying class (optional, but recommended)
- Lint-free dust cloth
- Soft-bristle brush
- Visual glossary of 16th century Japanese pottery marks and their time periods
Before you look for the pottery mark, take note of other features of the piece you're investigating. Look for the distinctive white porcelain glaze that was new to Japan at the time. Features of this period also include enamel pigments and decorative designs.
Look for certain distinct features like gold layered, enamel porcelain and the use of five solid colours in intricate designs: red, blue, yellow, purple and green.
Confirm the origin and age of the piece by finding and identifying the pottery mark. This is usually found on the base of the piece. Use the dust cloth and brush if you need to tidy up the piece to find the mark or clarify it. Take care not to damage or alter the mark.
Identify the language used first. Anything marked with "Nippon" in Latin letters predates 1921. Use your guide or glossary to identify a mark written in Japanese letters. Look for letters in a diamond or rectangle shape.
The Time Period
Tips and warnings
- Japanese pottery marks from the late 1700s use both Latin and Japanese characters, sometimes both. It will depend on whether or not the piece was intended for export, or whether it was mass produced or made for a customer within Japan. You don't need to be able to read Japanese characters to identify pottery pieces from the late 1700s.
- It is unfortunate but true that pottery pieces sold as antiques are sometimes either fake or stolen. If you suspect you have been deceived regarding the age of a piece, or that you have been sold a piece that was stolen, contact the seller immediately.
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