Sunday, August 12, 2012


Any seasoned experienced appraiser of art and antiques will tell you that the main perk of our profession is the potential for learning as we work on our assignments.

I recently got asked to appraise a lovely collection in Coral Gables in which there was an enviably varied and instructive experience during which I was able to see, examine, touch and evaluate a small collection of "Imari" porcelains. I state this in quotation marks because, as any knowledgeable collector of Asian porcelain knows, Imari is a bright polychromatic Japanese made porcelain with underglaze blue and added colours - usually with gilded decoration.  Although serious connoisseurs and collectors understandably focus on Japanese Imari of the 17th,  and to a limited extent 18th Century, most of the Imari seen in the routine mid range auctions, in antiques shops and even on online venues is 19th and some is even 20th Century.  A good example if a fine quality 19th Century Japanese Imari lidded urn in this same client's collection is seen below. This handsome mantle urn was probably originally once part of a pair of which one was lost or broken in years past...

This collection also had a few charming decorative bowls and plates seen below with all the characteristics of Japanese Imari. Note particularly the emphatically underglaze blue. Though these are clearly more commerically produced wares dating from the second half of the 19th Century, by which time the Japanese were producing and exporting larger and less fine volume inventory for eager Western consumers.

 However, in the late Georgian Period from 1790 well into the middle of the 19th Century, English porcelain manufacturers were keen enough to sense the consumer public's desire for the riotous exuberance of much desired Japanese Imari and began to create Imari-inspired wares (to which I refer as "Imari" in quotation marks)  that were clearly of English manufacture and not without their own charms and decorative appeal.

Below, also in this same client's collection is a lovely small group of English early to mid 19th Century Derby porcelain clearly following the Japanese examples.

Though without a doubt, my client's finest example of such English wares produced in unapologetic imitation of Japanese Imari is this ravishing and sumptuously executed and decorated oval dish produced by Coalport about 1810.

Also in this collection was a partial Coalport tea set in a clearly Imari-inspired style but with an obviously looser interpretation. This set also dated from the reign of George III and was produced ca 1810-1820.

For any student of porcelain seeking a chance to handle a good varied collection in which the chance to compare the Asian ware next to the European wares produced in direct imitation of it was indeed a most appreciated learning experience. Many thanks to master porcelain scholar and appraiser Letitia Roberts, New York City, for her invaluable experience and assistance whenever expertise in European porcelain is sought!

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