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 Originally made in the town now known as Arita, which became a center for porcelain thanks to its proximity to kaolin-rich Izumiyama, Imari ware (also called Japan or Japan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    

Early Antique Ironstone Stone China Davenport Imari Tureen Mason'sJapanese 1700's Imari Porcelain Red Oxide Cranes Butterflies Bird 26 In ChargerLarge 23cm Chinese 18th C Qianlong Imari Scholar Objects Porcelain Punch Bowl18thc Worcester Imari Pattern Cup And Saucer C1775Antique 1880's Davenport Highly Gilded Imari Cake Plate Bread & Butter # 1Gc8: Vintage Japanese Pottery Ornament, Lucky Cat, Imari Ware, Maneki-nekoRoyal Crown Derby Imari Tea Set, C. 1889-90Four Antique 1880's Davenport Highly Gilded Imari Coffee Can And Saucer CupAntique Coalport Imari Porcelain Vase A.2018 C. 1880Antique 1880's Davenport Highly Gilded Imari Tea Pot Superb Silver Plate MountsAntique 1880's Davenport Highly Gilded Imari Cake Plate Bread & Butter # 2Royal Crown Derby Imari Pattern 8453 - C1922 Cup, Saucer And Plate 3x 18thc Antique Imari Chinese Kangxi Porcelain PlatesVintage Japanese Imari Pierced Center Piece Bowl CompoteA Fine Blue & White Shonzui Style Arita (ko-imari) Moulded Porcelain Dish19th C English ? French ? Chinese Imari Style Porcelain Punch BowlAntique Japanese Kutani - Imari Porcelain Figure Statue - Lady With ScrollH270: Real Japanese Old Imari Colored Porcelain Bowl With Fantastic Painting.19th Century Minton Amherst Japan Gaudy Welsh Imari Teapot An Early 19th Century Imari 'turner's Patent' Stone China Saucer Dish,1800-1806,Antique English China Trio - William Lowe(court China) C.1912+ Imari ColoursAntique 1880's Davenport Highly Gilded Imari Trio Superb # 4 Cup Saucer PlateRare Early Masons ? Ironstone Miniature Roman Imari Palette JugAntique Japanese Blue & White Arita Imari Porcelain Haisen Or Sake Cup WasherFine Antique Japanese Imari Hand Painted Bowl. C1900.....4 Charcter Mark.Pair Signed Antique Japanese Imari / Arita Porcelain Covered Lid Bowls FlowersH792: Real Japanese Old Imari Porcelain Plate With Landscape Painting. 1700'sH811: Japanese Old Imari Colored Porcelain Bowl With Appropriate StyleSuper 18th Century Chinese Imari Porcelain Plate Qianlong / Kangxi Superb! 18th C Kangxi Imari Flower 15" Charger Qing Antique China Porcelain Ming3x 19thc English Porcelain Handpainted E/60 Japan / Imari Pattern Dessert Plates19thc Antique Japanese Imari Bottle Vase- Meiji PeriodAntique 1880's Davenport Highly Gilded Imari Trio Superb # 3 Cup Saucer PlateAntique Japanese Imari Cat Pretty 21cm Tall Japanese 19th C Meiji Period Imari Bottle VaseRoyal Crown Derby Imari Demitasse Set, C. 1902Royal Crown Derby X 5 Imari "king's Pattern" 383 Plates.1973.1st Quality.10.5" Rare Noritake Japanese Imari Cup Saucer & Plate - Stunning Imported From UkA Fantastic Chinese Imari Spill Bottle From The Kangshi Period (1162-1722)4 Royal Crown Derby Imari Pattern China Side Plates - 6 1/8" Diameter.Antique Pirkenhammer Ernst Wahliss Austria Imari Cobalt Demitasse Cup / SaucerAntique 1880's Davenport Highly Gilded Imari Large Slop Bowl SuperbSuperb 18thc Imari Bowl In Nice Original Colors Very Nice !#607: 1850's Japanese Imari-ware Flowers & Poetry Pattern Tea Cup 5sets, EirakuMeissen Large Tea Cup, Imari DecorationNo.5 Haidai Old Imari From Collector Well Shape Great Open Work Very Rare!A Fine Antique 19thc Chinese Imari Signed Porcelain Cat Character Mks To Base Antique 1880's Davenport Highly Gilded Imari Trio Superb # 1 Cup Saucer PlateAntique 19thc Japanese Imari Bowl- Meiji PeriodEdo Meiji Sake Tokkuri Arita Imari Bottle Breweriana Blue White Bamboo Shoot Yqz#543: 1880's Japanese Old Imari-ware Tea Bowl/chawan With The Lid 2sets, VhtfOld Antique Derby Stevenson & Hancock Plate Crown Mark Imari Vintage Gold Fine BRoyal Crown Derby 2451 Imari 7'' Side/salad Plates PairNo.12 Haidai Old Imari From Collector Blue & White Very Rare Cup Stand! No.2 Haidai Old Imari From Collector Celadon Very Rare!Gh8: Vintage Japanese Hand-painted Hyotan-shaped Sake Bottle, Imari Ware, 7.9"Fischer & Mieg Pirkenhammer Ernst Wahliss Austria Imari Cobalt Dessert Comport2 Antique Japanese Imari Blue Quality Porcelain Clam / Shell Shaped Dish PlateAntique Japanese Kutani - Imari Porcelain Figure Statue - Lady With PetAntique Chinese Porcelain Kangxi Period Floral Pre-1800 Imari Plate Wucai Ducai