Cloisonné

Among the Asian treasures in my living room are three small ornate metal bowls with lids and two little vases, all ornamented with cloisonné, defined as “an ancient technique for decorating metalwork objects with colored material held in place or separated by metal strips or wire, normally of gold.” As with so many of the foreign objects in my home, I don’t remember where or when I got the cloisonné pieces. They look to be Chinese. Four of the five have no writing anywhere on them. But the smallest vase, only about four and a half inches tall, has a tiny, slightly raised square on the bottom, less than a quarter inch wide, that contains Romanized text three lines long. Using a magnifier, I was able to make out: “Kwo’s (gift?) cloisonn”.

The three bowls, ranging from two to three-and-a-half inches in diameter, are decorated to match. The lid of each shows an ornate pink blossom and leaves against a medium blue background. The larger of the two vases is just under seven inches tall. Its neck and body are separated by a gold band. Above and below the band are borders filled with tri-petal flower shapes drawn in gold against a dark red background. On the neck and body, above and below the borders, are a variety of blossoms in different colors against a black background filled with tiny gold figures that might represent clouds. The smaller of the two vases is dark blue with blossoms in red and pearl, no two alike, crowding its surface.

I cherish these five dainty pieces of Asian art. They recall a time and a place long gone, but their beauty remains resplendent.

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