Monumental Imari Vase and Cover

Japan, Arita, Edo period, late 17th century.

Porcelain, richly decorated in underglaze blue and the overglaze colours iron-red, black, green and gold.

Height: 90,5 cm (35.6 inch) Ref No: 1540

Provenance: The natural scientist and world-traveller Wilhelm Joest (1852-1897), then his sister Adele Rautenstrauch, private collection, Cologne, Germany.

Porcelain, decorated in underglaze blue and the overglaze colours iron-red and gold. Large oviform jar on footring, recessed base. Wide upright neck. High domed cover with wide everted rim and six-sided pointed knob on a domed base. On the base three spur-marks in a triangle-pattern. Finely painted flowering carnations, peonies, sprays of chrysanthemums and other flowers are the main decorative motifs, alternating with some pomegranate trees, a fence and cranes. This large vase is made of one piece in contrast to monumental Chinese ware which are assembled from different pieces. The inside is carefully glazed.

Imari is a general name, usually applied in the West to a particular type of enamelled decoration, but some Japanese authors use ko-Imari to indicate the entire assortment of (old) Arita wares, enamelled as well as underglaze blue. The name is derived from the port of Imari near Arita, from where porcelain was shipped north for domestic distribution or to Nagasaki for export.

The name ”Imari” is therefore used here to indicate a polychrome ware, which developed fully in the last quarter of the 17th century. It is characterised by a rather complex and full enamelled decoration, frequently in combination with underglaze blue, which uses the entire surface. Japanese painters combined traditionel, often Chinese-based motifs in their own way. The exuberance of the scenes is characteristic: flowers, shishi and phoenixes have a voluptuousness altogether lacking on Chinese wares.