Japanese ‘Kakiemon’ porcelain was copied

An auction catalog offered a “rare Kakiemon enameled porcelain plate” from the 18th century, but there was no further explanation of the age, history or design. What is the meaning of Kakiemon? Sakaida Kakiemon (1596-1666) was a potter who worked in Japan in the early 17th century. He and his family painted porcelain made in the town of Arita. Kakiemon wares were painted over the glaze using blue, red, green, yellow and black, and sometimes with gilding. The best work was done from 1680 to 1720. The ceramic was milky white with a smooth surface. Designs were asymmetrical and sparse, so there was a lot of white space as part of the design. Most patterns were based on flower arrangements, crooked tree branches, flowers like peonies or chrysanthemums, or flowering fruit trees. One famous pattern included quail. The Kakiemon style was so popular, it was copied by many English and German factories, and 19th-century copies are very similar to early designs. A collector today may identify a plate as Kakiemon if it is in the style of the early pieces. But the description used by a museum also includes the name of the European maker. Meissen (German), Chantilly and Mennecy (French), and Chelsea, Bow and Worcester (English) all made early collectible copies. Collectors pay high prices for the 18th- and early 19th-century pieces. A nine-inch Meissen plate made about 1740 with a tiger, bamboo and flower decoration sold at a Brunk auction for $6,500. The pattern is copied today on modern dishes. Collectors should not be confused. The new dishes are very different in shape and glaze; only the decoration is old.

Q: What is the value of a Fowler’s Cherry Smash syrup dispenser? It was used at a soda fountain counter. It’s about 17 inches tall. There’s a pump at the top and it reads “Always drink Fowler’s Cherry Smash — our nation’s beverage” on the front and back. There is a five cent symbol on both sides and three cherries with stems. Underneath the base it reads “John E. Fowler, Richmond Va., to be used by Cherry Smash only.”

A: At one time, Cherry Smash was the second most popular soft drink in the United States. The name “Cherry Smash” was registered by John E. Fowler in 1909. The company started out in Richmond but moved to Rosslyn, Virginia, in 1920. After Prohibition ended in 1933, Fowler started the Dixie Brewing Corp., but no beer was ever brewed there. Cherry Smash was produced in Rosslyn until 1935. Your dispenser was made before that. Value about $2,000 to $3,000.

Q: What can you tell me about Splashme dolls? I’ve seen these little seated figures online and would like to know who made them and how old they are.

A: Splashme dolls were designed in 1917 by Genevieve Pfeffer (1890-1985), who used “Gene George” as her business name. The doll’s shape, with head in hands and elbows on knees, is based on Rose O’Neill’s Kewpie doll “The Thinker.” Splashme dolls also have similar large, side-glancing eyes. The dolls were made of bisque, composition or plaster of paris, had painted features and wore painted bathing suits and bathing shoes. They were first sold at beaches and vacation spots. Splashme dolls with a mohair wig or a scarf tied around painted hair were first made in 1918. Pfeffer also wrote books about the Splashme dolls. Splashme doll baby talcum containers, soap, party favors, postcards, and other items were made. The dolls sell today for about $35 to $50.

Tip: Your cellphone’s camera is a magnifying glass. Focus on the marking you want to read and go in for a close-up. It is great for ceramics or prints, but a little difficult for metal because of glare. No need for a ruler and a magnifier anymore. Now you can go to a show with a dollar bill (a 6-inch ruler) and a phone.

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