Imari Porcelain, with its distinctive pattern of Blues and Reds and Gold, is one of the most sought-after and collected Porcelains in the World.
Imari Porcelain is a variant of 17th Century Japanese Arita Porcelain and was first made in the Town of Arita in Japan about 1650. The original Arita design eventually evolved over a period of 50 years into the present characteristic pattern of decoration in Cobalt Blue, Iron-Rust Red and Gold. This new richly decorated Porcelain was exported in large quantities to Europe through the Port of Imari in Japan between 1650 and 1750. The name Imari thus comes from the Port in Japan where it was exported from and not the Town where it was originally made. Imari Porcelain has been continuously produced in Japan for over 450 years up through the present day.
Japan had begun exporting Porcelain to Europe in the Late 17th Century, when the Chinese kilns at Jingdezhen were damaged during the Civil Wars. The new Qing Dynasty in China had completely halted Chinese Porcelain exports between 1656 and 1684 and so the Japanese, with the help of Chinese Potters who had fled to Japan, had expanded their production in order to fill the vacuum in the market.
However the export of Japanese Imari to Europe slowed down in the Mid-18th century when China resumed Porcelain exports to Europe, since the Japanese were unable to compete against Chinese products due to high labor costs. However by that time the Japanese Imari style was already so popular among Europeans, that the Chinese began to copy it and soon started producing a type of Porcelain known as Chinese Imari.
By the Mid 18th Century, Chinese Imari was all the rage in Europe and so European porcelain works such as Meissen began to try and imitate it. In the Late 18th Century English potteries such as Worcester, Derby, Spode and Coalport, also began producing imitations of Chinese Imari and by the Early 19th Century Imari was amongst the most sought-after China Patterns in England. Derby China ,in particular, became famous for its richly decorated Imari pattern porcelain and by the Mid 19th Century owning a Derby Imari Dinner Service or even a Derby Imari Tea Set had become a status symbol amongst the new Victorian Middle Class. During the Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries Derby Imari pattern china was exported all over the British Empire and it was said that up until the Second World War no British Embassy or Government House in the Colonies was without a Derby Imari Tea Set.
The Imari pattern continues to be Royal Crown Derby’s most expensive and most sought-after design to this day and 18th and 19th Century examples are in very high demand by both Antiques Dealers and Collectors.