The painter Sozan was one of the most productive and best artists who worked for the Kinkozan workshop. The Kinkozan workshop knew many decorators, most of them worked anonymously and most of the 'products were sold under the firm's name; this is, they bore a workshop stamp or signature.' Only a select group of the very best decorators were allowed to place their signatures on elaborate pieces next to that of Kinkozan. Itozan, Gassan, Keizan and certainly Sozan were among them.
Kyoto’s Kinkozan workshop was one of the most successful producers of Satsuma wares, which grew in popularity as an export after the showing of Satsuma wares during the 1873 Vienna International Exhibition.
'This may indicate that Sozan was responsible not only for the execution of the decoration, but also for its design.'1 According to Louis Lawrence, Sozan was working in the Kinkozan workshop when Hebert Ponting visited in 1904 and said '... these artists work in little houses in the gardens where weeks and sometimes months, are spent in the minute embellishment of a single vase.'2 Sozan was able to produce work of very high quality and refinement, in a manner that was in line with Western painting techniques. Kinkozan items painted by Sozan are very sought after and belong to the best Satsuma style ever made. However, nothing is known about his life itself and even his year of birth and death remains unknown.
Compare to a similar fine ovoid vase decorated with scenes of open books, signed Sozan on many books and marked 'Kinkozan' on the base, illustrated in Louis Lawrence. 2011. Satsuma: The Romance of Japan. Tarzana: Meiji Satsuma Publications, pl. 72, details pp. 107-108. A comparable Satsuma four-sided rectangular vase, painted by Sozan for the Kinkozan Company, Meiji period, of which one side of the painting simulates a scroll painting, was sold at Bonham's London, 14 May 2015, lot 363. Another fine Satsuma vase, signed Sozan and Kinkozan, Meiji period, decorated with hanging scrolls with minute signatures and seals, was sold at Christie's London, 18 May 2012, lot 133; Also compare to two fine Satsuma wares, in the form of dishes, with similar overlapping and well-arranged panels each with fine paintings against a key-fret and foliage grounds, were sold at Bonhams New York, 10-20 January 2022, lot 66, and Bonhams New York, 15 March 2017, lot 6271.
Lyon & Turnbull’s international Asian Art department conduct frequent specialist auctions, in the various locations throughout the UK and via live online auctions. These auctions have a special focus on Chinese and Japanese ceramics, paintings, furniture, jade, textiles and works of art and are perfectly positioned to capitalise on the current strength in the Asian antiques markets.