Imari is a style of porcelain named after the Japanese port from which it was shipped to the West, beginning in the late 17th century. Originally made in the town now known as Arita, which became a center for porcelain thanks to its proximity to kaolin-rich Izumiyama, Imari ware (also called Japan or Japan ware), took its design cues from colorful Japanese textiles of the day. Exotic landscapes, gnarled trees, long-winged birds such as cranes, and depictions of courtesans in exquisitely detailed kimonos are just a few examples of the most common Imari imagery.

While Arita ware was often associated with blue-and-white pottery, the Korean-influenced Imari pieces were typically underglazed in blue to define areas filled in later with colored glazes fired at lower temperatures. Thus, blue was primarily used to create borders and backgrounds, although it was also painted on vases, tureens, plates, and lidded jars to depict leaves and other floral elements.

The most frequent Imari palette revolved around three main colors—the blue underglaze, plus a rusty reddish-orange and a brilliant gold. The popularity of this trio led to countless imitations in the West, produced by potteries as respected as Meissen in Germany and Spode in England, both of whom copied Imari freely. By the early 18th century, China was flooding the export market with inexpensive Chinese Imari of its own, making Japanese Imari prohibitively costly in the West.

The withdrawal of Japanese Imari from the Western market lured even more potteries into the Imari trade, particularly those in England, including Coalport. Foremost among them, and a strong player to this day, was Derby (now called Royal Crown Derby), which crammed its serving dishes, ginger jars, and teacups with as much pattern and decoration as their surfaces would permit.

Ornate borders were particular hallmarks of Derby, as was the use of gold—some Derby Imari almost appear to have been gilded, so laden are they with gold glaze. In the early part of the 20th century, Derby produced miniature versions of Imari vases, coal buckets, and urns, as well as paperweights in the shapes of chipmunks, birds, and farm animals such as rams.

Meissen copied Imari, as well as a style called Kakiemon, named for a 17th-century family of Japanese potters. Unlike Imari, whose colors and patterns were dense, Kakiemon pieces featured little or no blue underglaze, allowing compositions that were less cluttered and more sophisticated than the run-of-the-mill exports. In the case of Meissen, some of its early Kakiemon copies are as valued, if not more so, as the pieces that inspired them—collectors know to look for the Meissen crossed-swords mark somewhere within the design.

When the Japanese began exporting Imari again to the West in the middle of the 19th century, their artisans revived the old Imari patterns, although the quality of work from this period was often not as high as that of the Japanese Imari that had come before it, or even its English and German imitators. Numerous types of objects were produced purely for use as decoration in a home. For example, matching pairs of plates were subdivided into painted sections as they had been before, but their oversize diameters meant they were only to made for display on a wall rather than any sort of functional use. Still, some artists and factories from this period through the early 20th century are highly sought. In particular, the Fukagawa factory produced elegant vases decorated with thick vertical bands of pure pattern, pushing the borders of their pieces, if you will, to center stage.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Gotheborg.com

Gotheborg.com

Jan-Erik Nilsson's extensive reference on antique Chinese porcelain. Jam-packed with information (e.g. on porcelain… [read review or visit site]

Asian Art Museum

Asian Art Museum

You can get happily lost searching through the 10,000 or so objects on the Asian Art Museum's website. For example,… [read review or visit site]

The Bowes Museum: Ceramics

The Bowes Museum: Ceramics

This gallery showcases highlights from the 5,000 items in the museum's ceramics collection dating from 1500-1900. I… [read review or visit site]

Ceramics at The V&A

Ceramics at The V&A

A great reference on ceramics from the Victoria and Albert Museum. Learn about different ceramics techniques and st… [read review or visit site]



Most watched eBay auctions    

C1900 Royal Crown Derby Imari Pattern Group Of 5 Cups & Saucers Mixed Sizes NrSuperb Small Vintage Royal Crown Derby Old Imari Japan Bone China Dish C1988 VgcFine Quality Japanese 18th Century Imari Porcelain Barbers Bowl / ChargerAntique Davenport Imari Dolphin Footed Porcelain Comport / Tazza / Cake PlateRoyal Crown Derby - 1128 Old Imari - Large PlateF645: Real Japanese Old Imari Porcelain Ware Rectangle Plate With Good Design.Antique C1800 Derby Porcelain Soup Bowl ~ Imari Pallet *17Antique 19-20c Japanese Arita Imari Bamboo Charger Meiji Fukagawa Orchid Mark 15Antique C1800 Derby Porcelain Soup Bowl ~ Imari Pallet *20Antique 18th Century Edo Period Old Imari-arita Dragon Design Dish Uzu-fuku Mark1800's Meiji 2 Imari Arita Export Temple Baluster Jars Gilt Gold Decoration YqzRoyal Crown Derby, Imari 1128. Sweet Dish. Perfect. 1st Quality.Japanese Vintage Signed Imari Ceramic Ikebana Kabin Large Floral Vase 6 Fine Japanese Hand Painted & Potted Studio Imari Sauce Bowls Crap Motif Japan Hand Painted Imari Pottery Cat FigurineLarge Antique Japanese Imari Porcelain Plate/dish, Signed UnderfootF644 Real Japanese Old Imari Blue-and-white Porcelain Five Plates Meimei-zara. Rare Antique Black Ship Japanese Imari Namban Plate Vintage Japanese Imari Hand Painted Porcelain Cherry Blossom Flower Plate Mew NrD3667 Cjms Japanese Antique Imari Yaki Pottery Plate 19c A Fine Large Antique Imari Bottle VaseVintage Chinese Porcelain Imari Clobbered Rice Grain Pattern Rice Bowl Signed Royal Crown Derby, Barn Owl Paperweight Imari Colors Lxi Mint W/boxPg2: Vintage Japanese Tea Plate Of Fukagawa Porcelain, Imari WareF997: Real Japanese Old Imari Blue Porcelain Square Plate With Flower PaintingHigh Victorian Imari Coloured Tazza C.1860 [8996]12" Hand Painted Imari Charger Plate1970s Gold Imari Hand Painted Porcelain Turquoise Finger Bowl Type Plate 7"Japanese Fukagawa Koransha Imari Bowl 1890 - 1900Large 16" Vintage Chinese Porcelain Ewer Vase W Lid Japan Imari Style SignedPl4: Pair Of Vintage Japanese Hand-painted Tea Plates, Imari Ware, Arita WareJapanese Imari 12 1/4" Hand Painted Scalloped Charger Plate Antique Japanese Blue White Imari Dragon Dish Shallow Bowl Arita Japan PorcelainHigh Victorian Imari Coloured Tazza C.1860 [8997]F404 Real Japanese Old Imari Blue-and-white Porcelain Five Small Plates. A Chinese 18th Century Imari Tea CaddyHuge Antique Japanese Meiji Imari Baluster Vase Japan C1880s ŷRoyal Crown Derby Old Imari Pattern Clock 1128Antique Shelley Foley Wileman Rare Imari Cup & Saucer - Square Shape #3476 C1893Antique Japanese Imari Porcelain Plate/dish, C. Late Edo Period (1780-1860)- EarRoyal Crown Derby Imari Trinket Dish English Bone ChinaG060: Real Japanese Old Imari Colored Porcelain Plate With Fine Red Painting.Pa7: Japanese Porcelain Vase, Arita Ware With Signed Wooden Box, Imari WareVintage 12" Imari Charger Or Plate Decorated With Flowers High Victorian Imari Coloured Tazza C.1860 [8998]Pair Of 19thc Royal Crown Derby Imari 10-1/4" Dinner PlatesRare Antique Japanese Edo Meiji Porcelain Arita Imari Charger Plate 3 Elephants2 Vintage Royal Crown Derby Imari Cake Plates 9 1/4 "Vintage Japanese Ko-imari Style Kutani Porcelain Plate W/ Fluted Brocade PanelsAntique Chinese Imari Shallow Bowl, All Hand-painted, Rabbit In Center, Beauty 2 Old Antique Chinese Export Porcelain Imari Plates Or Bowl Floral ScallopedRoyal Crown Derby Imari Trinket Dish English Bone China Approx 5 InchesImari Porcelain Salt & Pepper Shaker Set Epns TopsRare Royal Crown Derby Imari Gold Gilt Lang Cake KnifeVintage Set Of 4 Arita Imari Fan Pattern Scallop Edge Soup Bowls 7 1/2" Pd1: Japanese Porcelain Sake Bottles & Sake Cups, Arita Ware, Imari WareAntique Imari Lidded Tobacco Jar Porcelain Estate Found Tea Caddy Asian Box VgAntique Japanese Imari Charger Asian Art Andrea By Sadek - Imari - Expresso / Demitasse Cup & Saucer Set - Never UsedBeautiful Antique Japanese Imari Porcelain Bowl