Gosu-Akae Bowl with Flowering Plants
“Gosu-akae” is the Japanese name given to overglaze enamel wares produced for export in the kilns of Zhangzhou in the southern part of China's Fujian province.
When the Jingdezhen kilns fell into decline during the wars that shook the late Ming dynasty, it was the Zhangzhou kilns that took up the baton of producing export ceramics. While Jingdezhen ware is thin porcelain with a refined look and delicate designs, gosu-akae vessels exude a more common, utilitarian air with their thick, coarse frames and simple motifs. Nonetheless, they were cherished by Japanese tea masters for the lively brushwork of the designs and their vivid coloring, dominated by red.
Let's take a simple walk through the production process. Firstly, the vessel shape was formed from clay and fired. A lion design was then drawn in the center of the vessel surface using cobalt. This is the underglaze decoration. A milky glaze was applied over this and the object was fired again at a high temperature. After the glaze hardened, circles and patterns were rendered in red, green, and black. This is the overglaze decoration. The vessel was fired one more time at a low temperature, and then intricate motifs were painted in gold on the red circles. The gold seems to have worn away through wear and tear, but a closer look reveals vestiges of where it had been applied. As you appreciate this meticulously-made bowl, try to imagine what it meant to those who made it and those who used it.