Imari porcelain originated in the early-17th century in the southern Japanese town of Arita. It is primarily known for its stylized depictions of bamboo, flowers, and geometric designs in blue and white at first, and then later in orange, blue, red and sometimes green. The ware was manufactured specifically for the European export trade near the Japanese port of Imari in the town of Arita, on an island in the south of the country. Today the town hosts an annual week-long ceramics fair that draws a million visitors.
As can be said of most finely painted porcelain pieces, the beauty depends upon the talent of the artist as a designer, the skill of the artist as the executioner of his design, and lastly but most important, the artist’s ability to harmoniously blend all of the elements required in a fine painting. This charger was obviously done by an experienced and creative Imari artist who knew his art well and also had exceptional talent.
Imari was wildly popular from the 17th century until the mid-18th in Europe until Chinese--followed by European--potters began creating their own versions of this pottery. By the last half of the 19th century, however, there occurred a great resurgence in interest in all things Japanese, including Imari, especially after the world Expositions in Paris, Philadelphia and Chicago that took place between 1867 and 1893. This heightened interest by the West was given the name, “Japonism,” by a contemporary artist, and took place in the midst of great societal changes in Japan. The Meiji period dates from 1868 until 1912, when the emperor of that name died.
This beautifully decorated large and deep bowl has a central circular panel filled with stylized flowers, leaves and gilded scrolling designs. There are four main panels separated by narrow bands of floral designs. Two of these have several types of flowers and large trees working their way through them. The bowl is painted in traditional underglaze blue and red enamels with a great deal of gilding on top of the glaze. Also scattered throughout is overglaze orange enamel. The top rim is handsomely scalloped with a blue line echoing the shape of the scallops all around the bowl.
The attention to detail in this piece is not only on the inside, but also on the outside, where there are four scalloped and circular panels with flowing traditional motifs packed tightly together. Flowers are lavishly applied here with scads of trailing leaves overlaid with gold leaf. The narrow bottom panel has flowers interspersed with golden geometric motifs running in between the flowers. There is a blue Japanese maker’s mark on the bottom.
This is a sumptuous bowl, lavishly and beautifully decorated both inside and out, making it a delight to look at.
The quality and condition are nearly unbelievable for a piece of this age. There is a small firing fault on the inside bottom. The gold leaf is still intense and has kept its subtle luster and magic. It is the type of piece that you just want to pick up and hold to discover all its secrets.
It is 11-1/4 inches in diameter and 4-7/8 inches high. It looks much larger than the measurements convey.
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