Imari Porcelain is porcelain that was made in Arita in the Nishimatsuura District, Saga, Japan.
Brief History and Description
It was called Imari porcelain was because the Aritaware was transhipped from the port of Imari. The Dutch East India Company came up with the first large order in 1656 and Imari Porcelain began to be exported to Europe. Chinese porcelain, mostly copies of the Japanese Imari designs became immensely popular with the Europeans and gradually captured the market that the Japanese Imari enjoyed. The Japanese could not compete against the Chinese because of high labor costs and they had to call off their Imari porcelain exports to Europe. Even the German kilns (Meisen) began to imitate the Imari designs.
By the mid nineteenth century, the Japanese porcelain making factories took trading into their own hands and started focusing more on the western markets. They set up an exhibition of Oriental porcelain in Philadelphia, USA, sometime during 1876. This was the first Japanese Imari range of porcelain that was exhibited to the Americans and it was a runaway success.
As a result, the Japanese started mass producing the Imari porcelain. Like all mass produce, there was also a small amount of quality that was compromised. Since then, this new line of Japanese Imari porcelain has been consistently produced, except for a break during World War One and Two.
Guide for Collectors
Since the seventeenth century, both the Japanese and the copied Chinese porcelain have been very popular in Europe. Imari style is easy to recognize with its standard colors which were blue, red, and white with golden outlines and edges.
A tip for the collector, Nabeshima porcelain is a kind of Imari that was produced exclusively for Lord Nabeshima (Japan) and is characterized by its distinctively noble design. Most of the original Imari pieces are safely tucked away in private collections.
More information on Imari porcelain and its collectors can be found in the product catalogues of Sotheby’s and Christie's auction houses. Some prominent oriental porcelain collectors were Augustus the First of Saxony, the Austrian royalty (the Habsburgs), the German line of rulers (the Hanovers) and the French royalty (House of Bourbons). Over 1200 pieces can also be found in the German Art Museum of Dresden.
Notable Auction Sales
"A pair of French silver-mounted Imari Porcelain tureens, covers and stands" from the early 18th century went for a premium price of $585,500, against an estimated price between $150,000 and $250,000 at Christie’s, New York on 20th October 1999.
Another notable auction sale was a "Japanese Imari lacquered porcelain garniture" from the late 17th Century that went for a premium price of £109,250 at the Spencer House Sale on 8th July, 2010 at Christie’s, London.
"A pair of large Chinese Imari porcelain vases and covers, mounted as torcheres", from the 19th Century also got considerable attention when they were auctioned for a premium price of $138,000 against an estimate price between $30,000 and $50,000 at a 19th Century Furniture, Sculpture, Works of Art and Ceramics Auction at Christie’s, New York on 20th April 2006.
"An Aritaware (Imari) style octagonal porcelain jar" went for a premium price of $76,000 at the Fine Asian Works of Art Auction at Bonhams, San Francisco on 21st November, 2005.