This Japanese Satsuma many-lobed tea bowl is a work of art. The style is called nuri-tsuboshi ("packed flowers"); it is alternatively called millefleur or 1000 flowers. It was made circa 1890, during the Meiji period (1868-1912). The polychrome enamels were hand painted on a pale ivory colored porcelain with a typical, fine crackle glaze. The crackling is visible on the undecorated areas, which are on the underside and bottom. Both the interior and the sides are covered with chrysanthemums and peonies, among other flowers and there is no negative (undecorated) space. The colors are not garish, but subtle, soft and pleasing. The flowers overlap for a "brocade" effect and many of them are intricately gilded. The lobed upper rim is also gilded.
The underside of the bowl was decorated with a band of harō and chidori (waves and seagulls), done in gilt on a band of red. There is a gilt ring around the foot rim and within the foot rim is the mark, also in gilt on red. This mark is called the "mon" and genuine Satsuma always has the "cross within a circle mark" (which often looks more like a cross within a square, like this one). Since we could not identify the upper character mark, we assume it is a maker's signature, although marks on Japanese porcelain mean many things, including wishes like "Good Luck."
The bowl measures 4 3/4 inches across, 2 inches high and has a 2 1/2 inch diameter base. The condition is superb, with the exception of wear to the gilt on the upper rim from many years of handling. This tea bowl is a treasure for the connoisseur of fine ceramics.