Inspired by Nature: The Story of Cloisonné featuring A Republic Period Pair of Cloisonné Quail

Republic period pair of cloisonné quail

Cloisonné is often used in decorative objects, and today, as part of our Inspired by Nature series, we are going to take a look at its story. The technique called Cloisonné is when little brass, gilt, or silvered strips of metal are applied to a metal body which can then be decorated with the insertion of pastes of enamels of various colours. There are a number of items in the gallery which employ the Cloisonné technique which we will use here by way of illustration. Often the objects which employ Cloisonné are used to depict naturalistic scenes and animals such as ducks or quail.

Republic period pair of cloisonné quail
Republic Period Pair of Cloisonné Quail

In antiquity, the cloisonné technique was found in jewellery and other such similar small objects decorated with geometric or schematic designs as a wonderful method for creating highly burnished colourful surfaces. Cloisonné by the 8th century in the Byzantine period made use of smaller wires and more pictorial illustration was possible. It was at this time that it and found its way across Europe. And finally, Cloisonné made its way to China in the 14th century where it was celebrated more than in any other country – and is still celebrated as a technique to this day.

Late 19th century pair of large scale cloisonné duck boxes
Late 19th Century Pair of Large Scale Cloisonné Duck Boxes

Some large scale cloisonné ducks (already sold)

Here we see blues, whites and reds – every colour of the rainbow. The object can then be fired in a kiln so that the pastes turn to a hard, polished surface that has a wonderful luminance. This example Cloisonné of was made in China at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries as boxes. Boxes for the housing of precious objects. Sometimes they were used as incense burners. They would have adorned an illustrious table in China at the turn of the last century.

A 19th century pair of cloisonné and pottery gourd vases
A 19th Century Pair of Cloisonné and Pottery Gourd Vases

These 19th century pottery vases of are in a double gourd form, decorated throughout with floral and ornithological cloisonné work in red and blue enamels.

All the items above are available on

Read another article in our Inspired by Nature series 

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