A large Pair of Imari Vases with Cover

Japan, Arita, late 17th century


Height: 88 cm (34.6 inch) Ref No: 1982

Porcelain, decorated with underglaze blue lotus and vine and the overglaze colours iron-red and gold. Large oviform, octagonal baluster jar on footring, recessed base. Wide upright neck. High domed cover with wide everted rim and hen and chicks finial on a domed base. Finely painted flowering carnations, peonies, sprays of chrysanthemums and other flowers are the main decorative motifs, alternating with some lions and birds.

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.