Imari Vase

Accession Number

Imari Vase


Artist Nationality
Japanese (culture or style)

Object Creation Date
circa 1860 - circa 1910

Medium & Support
porcelain with blue underglaze and overglaze enamel painting

76 1/2 in. x 25 in. x 25 in. ( 194.31 cm x 63.5 cm x 63.5 cm )

Credit Line
Gift of Meryl and Richard Place

Label copy
President's Houose object Summary
The term Imari ware refers to Japanese ceramics produced in the town of Arita in the old Hizen province, now Saga Prefecture. Porcelain objects designed in Arita were exported--most notably by the Dutch East India Company--through the nearby port of Imari. The first porcelain deposits were discovered by archaeologists in this area, and Arita is now known as a key source of porcelain technology in Japan.
Imari ware involves overglaze enamel on gray porcelain. Fine Imari porcelain exhibits a milk-white color with a glaze of close texture and a rather greasy sheen. Lower quality works appear grayish with glazes that are apt to crack and discolor. Subject matter generally includes Chinese Ming Dynasty-style landscapes, auspicious charactuer (for long life, prosperity, happiness, etc.), and repeated floral motifs that establish a stable formality. Imari artists expanded upon images in paintings, book illustrations, gold lacquer ware, and silk brocade fabrics.
During the Meiji Restoriation a second type of ware was developed at Arita solely for European trade. These large, heavily lacquered vases featured complex, asymmetrical designs surrounded by mixed brocade patterns, much like the deisgns that appear at the top and base of this vase. The design, along with the vase's shape, size and scalloped lid, make this work an excellent example of export porcelain.
Since overglaze enamel techniques developed simultaneously in Kutani (located in what is now the Ishikawa Prefecture) and Arita, and the products of these two regions often feature similar deisgns and almost identical inscriptions, there is still controversy over the relationship between Kutani and Imari wares. Since Kutani wares are considered to be the most prized of Japanese porcelain, traders in the late19th century exercised the phrase, "Buy Arita, sell Kutani."
(Laura Zahodne)

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