Overglaze Printed Japanese Porcelain
(Geisha Girl Porcelain)
These wares are thin white-bodied porcelain with printed overglaze decoration, manufactured for the western market as an inexpensive pottery sold in variety stores or given away as advertising premiums (Kovels.com). Because they are usually decorated with kimono-clad women in stereotypical Japanese settings (temples, pagodas, arched bridges), they are known in collector’s communities as “Kimono Lady ware” and “Geisha Girl porcelain” (Litts 1988).
Over 200 patterns have been documented in Elyce Litts 1998 publication, The Collector’s Encyclopedia of Geisha Girl Porcelain. These wares are usually printed in red over the final vessel glaze—the printed lines can clearly be felt when a finger is run over the surface of the pottery. The red printed designs are further decorated with overglaze enamels in blues, reds, greens and yellows.
These wares began production in the last quarter of the 19th century and continued to be manufactured into the early 1950s (Litts 1988:8, 11). Most were produced prior to the beginning of World War II, although they continued to be made during the period of Japan’s occupation by Allied forces (1945-1952).
A general rule of thumb to follow for marked pieces of geisha girl porcelain is as follows: vessels marked “Nippon” dated between 1891 and 1921 and items marked “Japan” or “Made in Japan” post-date 1921 (Litts 1988:58). Vessels marked “Made in Occupied Japan” date between 1945 and 1952.
These wares are characterized by a fine, extremely compacted white body with a clear shiny glaze. They are translucent and generally thin-bodied.
These porcelains have a clear, glossy feldspathic glaze that is usually fused to the paste.
Printing was done most often in red, but some geisha girl porcelain has the primary design printed in black or dark brown (Litts 1988:16). The primary red printed motifs are usually embellished with detailing in overglaze enamels in blues, gold, reds, greens and yellows. Gold gilt is sometimes used to decorate handles and rims. Around 1910 to 1915, white and yellow enamel dots, lines, stars and zigzags began to be used as a less expensive alternative to gold enamelling.
Forms produced included vessels associated with food and beverages: teapots, cups and saucers, cocoa pots, creamers, plates, bowls, mustard jars, butter pats, salt shakers, eggcups and bon-bon dishes. Toiletry and household wares were also produced in forms that included hair receivers, hat pins holders, pin trays, baskets, vases and ash trays.