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Japanese Satsuma ware Identification & Marks

Satsuma ware is perhaps one of the most well known of the Japanese pottery styles often richly decorated with fine detail and liberal use of gold.  The name comes from the port where the pottery was usually exported to the West during the 19th century.  The history goes back much further to around 1600 when Satsuma ware was generally plain and in dark clay, very different from the 19th century pieces made for export to the West.

Satsuma comes in many forms and the term is a catch-all covering highly decorated fine work, through the Awata style with enamel decoration and the later post war moriage decorated forms which are often a world away in terms of quality from the 19th century production.

One of the near constants for Satsuma ware is the crazing, sometimes darkened, which covers the plain areas of the pottery, this can be very fine and almost invisible to the eye through to obvious and heavy.  One sign of late 20th century reproductions is often the fake looking attempt to reproduce crazing.  To check our stock of satsuma ware click here.

Marks are most often hand painted and may include the artist as well as the pottery along with other details.  Impressed and incised marks are far less common.  Unmarked pieces, or those simply marked Satsuma are also common.  Generic marks include.

Satsuma: 薩摩  -  also sometimes in hiragana characters: さつま

Satsuma-yaki: 薩摩

Shimazu clan mark: Maru juji.svg  -  sometimes found on the body separately from the base mark.

 

Examples

 satsuma ware vase by hododa

 

Japanese Satsuma ware vase with elaborate gilt work and hardwood stand.  Meiji period, 19th century c1870.  Signed to the base for Hododa under the Shimazu crest.

 

japanese kyoto style satsuma ware vase Japanese Satsuma ware covered vase and stand in the Kyoto style with moriage detail.  Unmarked, late 19th century Meiji period.
satsuma dragon ware teapot Japanese Satsuma ware teapot with profuse detail and dragon form mouldings.  Meiji period, late 19th century.  Signed to the base for Gyokuzan with Great Japan.
 

 

Marks

Generic Marks
satsuma pottery generic mark Hand scripted in red, somewhat unclear mark and subject to revision, but appears to read (on right):  薩摩 Satsuma, followed by (on left) 薩国山 Satsuma (abbreviated) koku san.  Possibly intended as a form of 薩广国 (the Satsuma fiefdom).  Mark from a late Meiji/Taisho vase painted with wisteria.
E
Ekido (Sei) 易堂 製 hand scripted mark in black panel under the Shimazu crest.  Also marked 美術品 (work of art).  Meiji 19th century.
G
 satsuma ware mark Gyokuzan Gyokuzan 玉山 hand scripted mark in gold to left side with Great Japan above.  Meiji, 19th century

 

H
hakusan satsuma pottery mark

Hakusan 白山 hand scripted in simple outlined lozenge.  A small factory but very consistent high quality. Meiji, late 19th century

Also translates as white mountain and Mount Haku(san), a volcanic mountain.

japanese satsuma ware mark hattori Hattori (zo) 服部 造 hand scripted in gold on black panel under the Shimazu mon.  Also marked Satsuma 薩摩. This factory was known for the very high quality of output and first to use cobalt blue from the West. Meiji, late 19th century c1880.
satsuma ware mark hattori Hattori (zo) 服部 造 hand scripted in gold on red panel under the Shimazu mon.  Also marked Satsuma 薩摩. This mark to a finely painted vase with Rakan.
Hododa satsuma pottery mark

Hododa 保土田 hand scripted under the Shimazu crest, also marked Satsuma 薩摩.  Meiji, 19th century.

Also has a paper label with the number 三六五八 (3658), possibly a batch or reference number.

Hododa 保土田 hand scripted under the Shimazu crest on red panel.  Meiji, late 19th century. This mark from a tea cup.
satsuma ware mark Hododa 保土田 hand scripted under the Shimazu crest on black panel.  Partial Satsuma mark to the right.  This mark hastily drawn and at odds with the richly decorated Rakan vase it was taken from. Meiji, c1900.
satsuma ware mark Hozan (zo) 芳山 造 hand scripted under the Shimzau crest on red panel. Abbreviated Satsuma mark to left.  Mark on a finely decorated early Meiji vessel with inscription.  This mark also translates as Yoshiyama and differs from a later Hozan also producing Satsuma ware.  By kind permission of Thomaspden.
K
Kinkozan 錦光山 poorly hand scripted mark on an early 20th century Awata style item.  Workers were paid per item produced so often the marks can be very hastily written and difficult to read.
kinkozan signature on kyo-yaki satsuma ware vase Kinkozan (zo) 錦光山 造 hand scripted mark on a large Kyoto (Kyo-yaki) style vase.  Also marked great Japan 大日本, Meiji late 19th century.
konishi satsuma ware Konishi (zo) 小西 造 poorly hand scripted mark on a large heavily gilded dish with Samurai.  Also marked great Japan 大日本, and (probably) 東都 - old form of Tokyo East Capital.  Meiji late 19th century.
japanese satsuma ware by kusube Kusube 楠部 poorly hand scripted mark on early 20th century moriage style vase c1910-20.  The style is very different from the fine quality Geisha decorated Satsuma pieces carrying the same name but with much more clearly written signatures.  Rim mark is likely a vertical dash followed by the number 19 (perhaps a batch code).
T
Taniguchi 谷口 hand scripted in black panel.  Early 20th century, Meiji period. The name also translates as 'mouth of the valley'
satsuma ware mark tomoyama Tomoyama 友山  hand scripted gold over a red panel.  Late 19th century Meiji period image from a nut dish. The name can also be translated as Tomozan.  Image by kind courtesy of M.Traub.