10. aug, 2019

New page: How old is it?

Some remarks about evaluating the age of a Satsuma object

"Satsuma: the joy of beauty" offers you a data-base on Satsuma marks and makers. The database might be helpfull for collectors to identify their satsuma-earthenware. The database is free to use for anyone who is interested.

The Satsuma Database and what's in it

The Satsuma database consists of three files:

  • The Marks & makers data file gives you (at the moment) about 1700 marks and signatures of 450 makers of Satsumaware.
  • Examples of the work that each of these makers has produced or decorated can be found in the Makers: examples data file.
  • The Look it up data file is an extensive list of nearly 2,000 makers of Japanese ceramics. The names are written in both Latin script and kanji. It helps you to find the maker of your own Satsuma, even when you have identified only one character of the mark on it. Once you have found the name of a maker, you can also see if it is an individual maker or a company name, and get an indication of the period in which it was made. The file was created by mr. Martin Michels, Japantiek.nl and is part of his huge collection of brands and signatures on Japanese ceramics. Satsuma: the joy of beauty is grateful to have his permission to share it with you.

For questions, comments or suggestions, please contact:


This website is constantly evolving. The database will be updated regularly.

About this site

Once you have discovered the beauty of Satsuma pottery, you will cherish it all your life. Satsuma earthenware can be enchantingly beautiful, impressive in form and precise execution of the decoration and at its best they are true masterpieces. Satsuma pottery is also available, the range is large, the prices are very acceptable compared to other works of art and antiques, which means that a good collection can be built up quickly. So far the good news. The bad news is that although the supply is large, the quality thereof is 99 percent mediocre to poor. That is also the challenge for the collector of Satsuma earthenware: finding a Satsuma gem among countless misproducts, recognizing the beauty and quality that is contained in a miniature vase of only 8 cm tall, and then being able to get it for a few hundred euros, is extremely satisfying.

The big question is: how do you recognize the quality of such an object? What are the criteria you should pay attention to? How do you really recognize counterfeiting, good quality from mediocre or worse. This website attempts to be an aid in the identification of Satsuma earthenware that is collectible. The interpretation of the term "collectible" is up to the collector him/herself, everyone uses his own criteria. This website uses the criteria of this author. It has no further pretentions and aims no more than sharing knowledge and experiences gained during this search for good-quality Satsuma pottery. It is clear that the acquisition of this knowledge involves an ongoing process. That this search also includes wrongly taken paths, mistakes and errors I take for granted, that is inherent to a search.


Some remarks on Satsuma

Satsuma is the name of both a municipality and a former province of Japan, located in the current Kagoshima prefecture. Satsuma is therefore a geographical indication, which became the sortname for a type of pottery that is called Satsuma yaki. This kind of pottery was made from a type of clay that can be found in Satsuma. However, Satsuma yaki was and is not only produced in Satsuma.

Most Satsuma pottery found in the west is of very poor quality. These are export products that were being massively exported from Japan in the first half of the last century. Colorful saucers, table lamps and complete dinnerware, often with gold and thickly applied glaze, the so-called morriage, and decorations on which gods and dragons, geishas and samurai are prominently depicted: on the internet they are offered by hundreds, mostly coming from the household estates of parents or grandparents, and purchased in the 1930s or later. It is a form of Satsuma that was produced in Japan at that time and exported to the west by hundreds of thousands. The heydays of the real Satsuma was already over by then, the period in which time played no role and craftsmanship was given a continuation in which only in the cheapest possible way, therefore quickly and in large numbers, was proclaimed to meet the enormous demand from the West.

Although many pieces are provided with a maker's name, be aware that this is always secundary to quality. The name can relate to the maker, but also to the pottery in which it originates. In a number of cases also as a homage to a valued master painter and again in a number of cases a conscious counterfeit. Satsuma was one of Japan's most successful export products in the Meiji era and subsequent years. In Japan itself people were hardly interested in this. The lavishly decorated Satsuma products, entirely focused on Western taste, did not fit in with the aesthetic standards used in Japan.

Satsuma pottery was produced in large numbers by mostly anonymous makers, a number of these potteries / makers are known for the high quality of their products. Other potteries mainly produced mass goods aimed at tourists. A lot of high-quality work was not signed. This applies in particular to the early work from 1854 and the period referred to as Meiji (1868-1916), under the reign of Emperor Mutsuhito. Because the foreigners, in particular, wanted to see a brand or maker's name, this was increasingly applied from the years that Japan opened itself up to foreigners. Following an exhibition in Paris in 1867 in which Satsumawerk presented work, there is an explosive demand for Japanese pottery. In order to meet the high demand, the quality standards were systematically lowered to a point where one can only speak of mass production, but with signature. Sometimes the name of great masters was used deliberately, sometimes only the name of the pottery, or simply the addition that the product concerned Satsuma work. Quality is therefore the most important indicator in the assessment of Satsuma works, not the makers name.

Characteristics of Satsuma

• Satsuma is earthenware, not porcelain. The difference between earthenware and porcelain is the porosity of the clay. This is clearly visible at the bottom or back, the unglazed part. Porcelain is white, hard and smooth in structure. Satsuma clay has a somewhat creamy, ivory color and feels rougher. Satsuma clay is originally ferrous, and would turn dark after baking. Systematic dilution removes the iron from the clay, leaving clay that turns out to be nicely ivory after baking (Satsuma-white, there is also Satuma-black, clay that turns very dark, almost black after baking).

• Satsuma has a very fine-grained crackle on the whole piece. This is a deliberately applied effect: the thinly applied glaze cracks as soon as the piece is removed from the oven, this deepens the colors. Satsuma is sometimes also treated with sludge before glazing, this is called moriage.

• The colors are applied after the glaze (top glaze), this also applies to the gold-plated parts, which are applied both before and after the colors. From 1900, the gold appears to be applied much thinner, almost flat. Among other things because the liquid gilding, initially invented by Meissen, is used more often. Satsuma work with this refined painting is therefore usually from after 1900.

The production process step by step:

  1. The form is modeled in the clay.
  2. The modeled form is dried.
  3. The object is baked at around 700-800 degrees.
  4. The object is glazed blank.
  5. The object is baked again at 1200 degrees.
  6. The object is removed from the oven with the glaze shrinking and crackling. characteristic of Satsuma pottery.
  7. The design is applied in black.
  8. The object is baked again.
  9. The colors are applied.
  10. It is baked again at around 1000 degrees.
  11. The gold is applied.
  12. The object is baked at 600 degrees to harden the gold.
  13. The object is polished with a special brush to make the gold shiny.


Good books and useful links

This site does not provide the full history of Satsuma pottery. The historical background and development of Satsuma ware can be found on the internet or in books. For those who are interested, some recommended books and helpful links.  


Louis Lawrence. "Satsuma: The Romance of Japan" - Meiji Satsuma Publications 2011

Thomas S. Kiernan: "The Best Book on Satsuma: Over 300 Marks and Signatures" - Kiernan 2008

Sandra Andacht: "Treasury of Satsuma" - Wallace-Homestead Book 1981

Irene Stitt: "Japanese Ceramics of the Last 100 Years" - Crown Pub 1975

Maria Penkala: "A survey of Japanese ceramics: A handbook for the collector" - Interbook International 1980

James Lord Bowes: "Japanese Marks & Seals in Literature and the Arts" - Shambhala Publications Inc 2001 (fascimile print from 1882) Free download here: Bowes Marks

Gisela Jahn: “Meiji Ceramics. Japanese Export Porcelain 1868-1912 ”- Arnoldsche 1999 

Edward S. Morse: "Japan Day by Day, 1877, 1878-79-1882-83." -  Boston 1917. An extensive time travel through Japan in the Meiji period. Detailed description with a lot of illustration of daily life. Free download here: Volume I and Volume II

Edward S. Morse: " Catalogue of the Morse collection of Japanese pottery," - Cambridge 1901. Extensive description of the Morse collection in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, with over 1500 potters names. Free download here: Morse catalogue.


Experts and collectors

www: Japantiek.nl presents a private collection of Japanese earthenware and porcelain and other antiques and collectables. What’s more: you can consult the owner for all your questions concerning marks on Japanese porcelain, including Satsuma-yaki. It’s free of charge! 

www.Gotheborg.com  presents an comprehensive overview of antique Chinese and Japanese porcelain, offering information about historical background, marks and makers and a glossary of terms. A not-for-free consultation for your Satsuma ware is available. 

http://litaxulingkelley.blogspot.com presents a list of antique and modern Japanese porcelain marks and a glossary of Japanese ceramics terminologu. 

https://www.kutani.org  is a very extensive website on Kutani ware, both antique and modern, and gives you the opportunity of identifying marks and makers names by using their database (not for free)

www.artelino.com  is specialized on Japanese printmaking, and offers you hundreds of beautiful prints, and a data-base with over 650 artists-names ands signatures. Although not Satsuma or even earthenware, interesting enough since motives of prints also can be seen on Satsuma. 

https://www.asianart.com hosts the Asian Arts Forum, a private forum owned by Asianart.com dedicated to questions and discussions of Chinese and Japanese art and inscriptions, South Asian Art, and Asian Art in general. Visitors will see that the forum is frequented by several knowledgeable scholars, dealers and enthusiasts who are willing to share their knowledge. 

http://www.jameelcentre.ashmolean.org The Eastern Art collections at the Ashmolean comprise around 30,000 objects including ceramics, textiles, sculpture, metalwork, paintings, prints, and other decorative arts. Predominantly from Asia and the Middle East, the collection spans over 5,000 years of cultural and artistic development.

Dealers and sellers

www: rubylane.com is the home for thousands of independent shopowners offering antiques, vintages colectables and works of art, pre-screened by an in-house team of art and antiques professionals (what is also the main difference with e-bay) 

www: Trocadero.com: presents many high quality Satsuma ware, offered by specialized artdealers.  





 There are many auction sites, where upcoming auctions or the results of past auctions are presented. All these are search engines for art, antiques and collectibles from thousands of auction houses around the world, offering an huge amount of Satsuma ware sold recently or in the past by auctionhouses all over the world. You can search in catalogues for upcoming auctions or in archives for sold auctions. Most of them give you also an idea of the value by estimate or sold price. 



www. Barnebys.com

www. Liveauctioneers.com