The complex world of old Japanese pottery and porcelain is our topic in today's What's It Worth? A reader asks about her late 19th century teapot, and we have news of a opportunity for possible valuations of Oriental items.
Q. We've has this teapot for a long time. It is a family piece and belonged to my grandmother, but there are no details as to where or how she acquired it. It has red Oriental-looking marks on the bottom. Is it likely to be worth much and can you tell us something about it? Like, what is it? -- Johanna in Prosser
A. This is late Kutani ware, right on the turn of the 20th century, probably made between 1880 and 1900.
Kutani is a style of Japanese porcelain. It is translucent -- a light will shine through it. The original production started in a Japanese village in the 17th century and was only made for a few decades. Collectors call these very old pieces "Ko Kutani;" they are scarce and rarely come to market.
Around 1750-1800, the work was revived and is of a slightly different design than the earliest pieces. These 18th and early 19th century items are also seldom seen.
While of good quality, this teapot is of much later production. It was designed for export and to be sold, most likely, in America.
Given its date, Johanna's piece is right on the cusp of a major change that occurred in Japanese production of these items. What followed Kutani was a porcelain ware called "Geisha Girl."
Geisha, as collectors call it, was one of several major Japanese efforts aiming porcelain production directly at the booming export markets of America, Britain, Canada and parts of Europe.
Featuring colorful, kimono-clad ladies and children in everyday activities, Geisha caught on with the overseas public and was popular for decades. We've included a photo of a small Geisha Girl nut bowl in today's column, even though Johanna's piece is the slightly earlier Kutani.
By comparing the pictures, you can see the teapot has started to take on some of the design elements of Geisha Girl ware. Yet, the teapot retains many Kutani elements, including the gold wash on the handle, spout and finial. That gold wouldn't have been used on a Geisha piece.
There were more than 100 manufacturers involved in Geisha Girl production. That accounts for several hundred patterns and styles. The ware was made in practical forms for Western use -- dresser items, tea and coffee services, children's dishes and the like.
Kutani started to phase out and Geisha Girl took over the market during the period from 1900 to about 1930. Generally, collectors consider Kutani pieces such as Johanna's example to be more desirable and valuable than the more commonly found Geisha Girl.
Whereas a Geisha teapot in this size might bring $25, the Kutani teapot would more likely be valued in the $50 to $75 range in a shop.
AUCTION HOUSE PLANS VALUATION DAY IN SPOKANE
If you’ve always wondered about an Oriental item in your household, an opportunity is coming in late August in Spokane to learn its history and potential auction value.
Bonhams, one of the world’s oldest and largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques, is bringing its Asian experts to Spokane on Aug. 23 for a complimentary valuation day.
Andrew Lick, Asian Art specialist with Bonhams’ San Francisco office, will be conducting by-appointment-only valuations that day, with a view to identify items for possible consignment to upcoming auctions. There is no charge and no obligation, but an advance appointment is required.
Heather O’Mahony, Bonhams’ Seattle regional representative, says, “If any What’s It Worth? readers have Asian works of art — especially fine jades, porcelain, furniture, silver and the like — we would be keen on seeing it during our Spokane visit.”
You can consult with her on your item’s potential and schedule an appointment. She can be contacted at 206-218-5001.
-- Terry K. Maurer, Tri-Cities personal property appraiser, is a member of the Certified Appraisers Guild of America. For possible use in a future column, direct questions on your antiques and collectibles to What's It Worth? by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.