Posted 6 months ago
I believe this cloisonné brooch (or shippoyaki, as it's called in Japan) dates from the Meiji era (1868–1912), or possibly from Taisho (1912–1926). It's only 1 and 3/8" (3.5 cm) in diameter, yet decorated with an incredibly intricate design. The backing appears to be of base metal, possibly bronze.
Now, more about the design. It features at least 3 traditional instruments that I could identify:
* The tsuzumi, an hourglass-shaped double-sided hand drum (the thing with two ovals)
* The sho, a Japanese free reed musical instrument that makes a very eerie sound (the thing that looks like red and black organ pipes)
* A flute - possibly a hichikiri (double-reed flute used in gagaku orchestras) or nokan (used in the Noh theatre)
It's possible these three were chosen specifically because they are common to Noh or gagaku, in which case it may speak to enjoyment of that particular art form.
The background of the brooch is filled with other elements, specifically abstract swirls, circular elements that resemble kamon (family crests), and shippo - an interlocked circle design similar to the "double wedding ring" quilting pattern.
This brooch is still colourful and vivid, despite having suffered a minimal degree of enamel and wire loss.
I've looked online at many other examples of Japanese cloisonné/shippoyaki, but have never seen any other that features musical instruments. In that respect, at least, so far it seems to be unique.
To me, the mystery about this piece is, was it intended to be worn by a Japanese customer - who would presumably wear it on western-style garments, as brooches are not worn with traditional clothing? Or was it designed for export - in which case the foreign customer probably wouldn't know what they were looking at!