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Imari Porcelain


When most people think of ceramics production in eastern Asia they think of Chinese ceramics such as vases, tea sets, and figurines.  However, Japan also has a rich history of ceramic arts, dating back several thousand years.  Although the Japanese have been producing ceramics for a long period of time, the art did not become well known in the rest of the world until the seventeenth century when Imari porcelain became highly popular in European markets.  Imari porcelain became well known for its striking blue colors on a white background, and for a time Dutch traders brought large amounts of Imari porcelain back to European markets.  Pieces of Imari porcelain came in many different grades of quality depending on the market they were bound for but regardless of their quality, older examples of Imari porcelain are highly prized by collectors. 

Ironically, Imari porcelain is generally believed to have been first produced by Korean potter Ri Sanpei, who was brought to Japan from Korea following the Japanese invasion of Koran in 1597.  Examples of Imari porcelain from the early 1600s used only blue colors on a white glaze background; as the art matured through the mid-1600s other colors became a part of Imari porcelain, including red, yellow, green, and gold.  The popularity of Imari porcelain was somewhat enhanced by political turmoil in China, which closed Chinese markets and forced European traders to seek new production sources.  Imari porcelain also remained consistently popular on the Japanese market, with different grades of pieces being available for almost every different social class. 

Imari porcelain was mostly produced on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu.  While porcelain production was well established in countries like China and Korea, Japanese potters had a hard time finding the clay necessary for making porcelain.  Once a source of this clay was found near Arita Japanese porcelain production progressed rapidly, although it never achieved the scale found in China. 

Imari porcelain (and indeed most porcelain) has a white base color, to which early potters added a blue cobalt dye before firing to create an under glaze.  Later artists painted designs on top of the fired pure porcelain with enamels, and the colors used for these designs changed over time.  Imari porcelain pieces were produced for both artistic and functional uses.  There were several different grades of Imari porcelain produced, with the higher quality works generally reserved for the wealthy elite.  Plates, rice bowls, tea sets, and sake sets were all produced in Imari porcelain, and many Japanese families still use these articles in their homes. 

Imari porcelain can make a fine addition to any Asian art collection.  Some pieces can also be pressed into functional use serving sake or Japanese tea.  Imari porcelain is still produced today, and examples of older pieces are widely available at antique shops and auction.


 

Chinese Dynasties The Great Wall of China
The Forbidden City The Terracotta Army
 
Wide Celadon Vase
Wide Celadon Vase
Code:MV403
Price:$37.95
Yaobian Flared Vase
Yaobian Flared Vase
Code:VJ15
Price:$32.95
Famille Rose Vase
Famille Rose Vase
Code:MV011
Price:$24.95
Pair of  Vases
Pair of Vases
Code:MS201
Price:$28.95
Yaobian Meiping Vase
Yaobian Meiping Vase
Code:VJ17
Price:$32.95
 
 

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