Japanese Imari Ware Marks and Information
The Imari name is derived from the port of Imari, where this porcelain was shipped to Nagasaki. In Nagasaki the Dutch East India Company and the Chinese had trading outposts where the porcelain was sold and exported. In the West the iron red and blue enamelled wares became known as "Imari ware", with "kakiemon" being a separate form. The blue and white designs were known as "Arita ware", in reality all forms were often produced at the same kilns. Imari ware was copied in both China and Europe, and has been continuously produced to the present day.
Imari ware (also called Hizen ware) was produced in Arita and exports to the West began in the mid 17th century. It was most popular in the West during the Meiji period (late 19th century) with production varying from very high quality to basic wares produced under piecework in cramped factories. Prices today reflect this with basic Meiji Imari items still being very affordable. The most commonly found pieces are plates, bowls and dishes along with vases. Imari was made from porcelain unlike Satsuma which is of pottery body.
Imari is most commonly unmarked. Makers and artists names occur along with generic details on some items. As the Imari name was a Western construct it is not found (or exceptionally rarely found) on genuine items from the period. Also found as marks are naturalistic devices such as a leaves and Buddhist symbols.
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Just as with Western items Imari porcelain sometimes has words such as 'made' or 'artist' incorporated into the mark and can also be in combination. Some examples are given below.
Imari: 伊万里 - or in hiragana characters: いまりし, very rarely seen on original Japanese Imari.
Other character marks may include:
Arita (the region of production) - 有田
Country (as in area of manufacture) - 國 (kuni)
Created/Made - 造 (zo) (tsuku-ru)
For left - 左用 (Sayō) indicating the vase should be placed on the left
For right - 右用 (Migi-yō) indicating the vase should be placed on the right
Great Japan - 大日本 (Dai Nihon) generally changed to just Nihon in the Taisho period
Japan - 大日 (Nihon)
Kiln - 窯 (kama)
Kyoto - 京都
Made - 製 (Sei)
Made by - 製之 (sei no) used subsequent to artists name
Made in the hall (as in workshop of) - 堂製 (do sei)
Painter/Artist - 画 (ga)
Patent - 特許 (tokkyo)
Patent - 專賣特許 (Senbai tokkyo) the Japanese patent act of 1895
Produced/Made - 作 (tsukuru)
Region / Country - 国 (kuni)
Tokyo - 東京
Ware - 焼 (yaki)
Work of art - 美術品 (bi jutsu shina)
Yokohama (City) - 横浜 (市) - (Yokohama-shi)
Examples of Satsuma Ware Items
Japanese Imari porcelain large temple jar and cover, late Edo or Meiji period. The cover features a Shi-shi lion knop. Click to see full image.
|An Imari ware plate with shaped rim and traditional style decoration. Meiji period.|
|Fuki Chosun 冨貴長春 - This is a good luck mark rather than a makers mark and is found on Imari ware from the late 19th century onwards. It translates as Riches, Honors and Everlasting Youth appropriated from the Chinese phrase Fu, Gui, Chang Chun of the same meaning. Mark from a bowl, late Meiji or Taisho period.|
|Treasure Vase - one of the eight Buddhist auspicious symbols (Ashtamangala). It is a symbol of long life and spiritual abundance and it t also symbolizes the completion of spiritual aspirations. Symbols instead of character marks are regularly found on Imari porcelain.|
|Yamaka zo 山嘉造 - mark from an Imari plate with two phoenix birds in the center. Mark could also be read as Zanka zo. A Yamaka Porcelain of Toki Gifu prefecture operated from 1913, however I have been unable to determine if the mark is related to this factory.|
|Zoshuntei Sanpo zo 蔵春亭三保造 - A brand of Imari porcelain in the Ko-Imari style created by Hisatomi Yoshibe for export to the West. Produced in the Arita region from the late Edo into the Meiji period. Mark from a vase decorated with fan forms and a vermicelli ground.|