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 Originally made in the town now known as Arita, which became a center for porcelain thanks to its proximity to kaolin-rich Izumiyama, Imari ware (also called Japan or Japan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

Large Mirror Pair Of Antique Japanese Imari Vases By FukagawaScarce Mason's Ironstone Imari Two Handle Covered Vegetable Bowl And Stand C1820Circa 1810 Spode Porcelain 967 Imari / Japan Pattern Sugar SucrierAntique Chinese Imari Porcelain Tankard Circa 1780Pair: Royal Crown Derby Imari 1128 Pattern 7" Vases - RarePair (2) Imari Arita Blue White Porcelain Double Gourd Vase Lamp Conversions YqzG765: Real Japanese Old Imari Blue-and-white Porcelain Big Plate In Edo Period 2Royal Crown Derby - 2451 Traditional Imari - Oval Trinket Box - 1912 G764: Real Japanese Old Imari Blue-and-white Porcelain Big Plate In Edo PeriodAntique Shelley Foley Wileman Fairy Imari Cup, Saucer & Plate (trio) C1890 #6663Royal Crown Derby. Bone China Plate. 1128. 'old Imari' (ths5)19c English Porcelain Coffee Cup And Saucer - Imari Pattern 542A Good Pair Of 19th Century Japanese Octagonal Imari PlatesRoyal Albert Imari Pattern Trio - Similar To "wembley"Pair: Royal Crown Derby Old Imari 1128 Two Handle 3" VasesG763: Real Japanese Old Imari Colored Porcelain Bowl With Fantastic Painting.Antique Early 19c Japanese Imari Porcelain Cat MarkedAntique Lg 10 In Chinese Japanese Imari Porcelain Medallion Export Ribbed VaseA Fine Antique Japanese Arita Imari Fine Porcelain FigureBm4: Japanese Vase Of Fukagawa Porcelain, Arita, Imari Ware, Bird & Tree, 10.9"Antique Imari Shell Shaped Plate Length 24cmEarly 19th Century Derby Imari Pattern Eggcup / Egg CupImpressive Japanese Imari Blue And White Dish And Pots Antiques PorcelainDavenport - Imari Pattern - Jug And Bowl - C. 1880Superb Set 18th Imari Bowl Saucer Tea Cup Flower Qing Antique China Porcelain Antique Shelley Foley Wileman Cabinet Trio - Imari 6075 Pattern - Tea Cup PlateG758: Real Japanese Old Imari Porcelain Elliptical Plate With Fantastic StyleAntique Samuel Radford Imari Trio - Unusual Colours Great ConditionH. M. Williamson China 1890s Imari Trio + Cake PlateG760: Japanese Old Imari Blue-and-white Porcelain Ware Pair Of Covered Bowl Vintage Royal Crown Derby Old Imari #1128 Mini Vase Red Blue GoldLate 1800's Meiji Arita Imari Mini Cabinet Temple Shrine Altar Export Vase YqzRoyal Crown Derby Old Imari Japan Set Of 6 Dessert Plates 6 InchA2607: 1850's Japanese Imari-ware Large Plate/dish Dragon & Tiger PatternG316 Real Japanese Old Imari Blue-and-white Porcelain Ware Big Plate 18.9 InchesBg5: Japanese Vase, Fukagawa Porcelain, Imari Ware, Bird & Tree, 11.0 InchesBg4: Japanese Vase, Fukagawa Porcelain, Imari Ware, Tea Ceremony, Maple TreeBa6: Pair Of Antique Japanese Hand-painted Old Imari Sake Cups, Inoguchi, 19cStunning Antique Copeland / Spode Imari Cream Jug. C1860.Antique Royal Crown Derby Porcelain Imari Side Cake Plate Pattern 1660 6.25" Chinese Porcelain Bowl 18th Century Qianlong Ch'ien Lung Imari Palette19th Century Meiji Arita Polychrome Imari Foliated Rim Kiku Moulded Charger DishDavenport - Imari Pattern - Cup Saucer And Plate - C. 1880Antique 100+ Year Old Japanese Ceramic Imari Tokkuri Sake JugStunning Antique Copeland / Spode Imari Cup, Saucer And Plate. #2. C1860.Stunning Antique Copeland / Spode Imari Cup, Saucer And Plate. #1. C1860.Beautiful Japanese Imari Gilt Porcelain Fish Plate " Pair Of Old Japanese Kutani Imari Goose Duck Figures Signed Nice Details "Vintage Imari Japan Heritage Porcelain Box Gold Vase Superb 18th Century Imari Flower Bowl Saucer Tea Cup Set Antique China PorcelainA Lovely Pair Of 19th Century Square Imari PlatesRoyal Crown Derby 'imari" Set Of 10 Salad Plates4 Vintage Coalport Hong Kong Imari Design 10 1/2" Dinner PlatesStunning Antique Copeland / Spode Imari Bone China Bowl. C1860.G766 Real Japanese Old Imari Blue-and-white Porcelain Big Plate With Carp DesignFabulous Red And Blue Imari Trio By William Lowe, Court China EnglandG616: Real Japanese Old Imari Blue-and-white Porcelain Bowl With Good FormG561: Real Japanese High Quality Old Imari Octagonal Porcelain Plate. 1700'sAynsley Trio Imari Pattern Cup Saucer And PlateA Rare Ltd Ed Spode Bone China 250th Aniversary Thimble Entitled ---imari--