Imari

Chinese, decoration, Imari, Meissen, Porcelain

Cross-Cultural Influences

For centuries the Chinese porcelain industry had been the envy of Europeans who wanted the prestige and wealth that mastering the secret to porcelain manufacture would bring them, but it wasn’t until the turn of the Eighteenth century that Ehrenfried Walther von Tschirnhaus (a German scientist) first developed a form of hard paste porcelain. By the time Tschirnhaus died  in 1708, Johann Friedrich Böttger (an alchemist) had already developed the paste into what is now known as Böttgersteinzeug (a red stoneware). He was employed by King Augustus II of Poland and Saxony (1670–1733) who set him up in a laboratory in Albrechtsburg Castle (Meissen) in order to develop the recipe into a commercial paste. The castle was chosen, so that the secret of the paste, once a commercially viable formula was developed, could be closely guarded. The Royal-Polish and Electoral-Saxon Porcelain Manufactury was also established and started manufacturing porcelain in 1710.

The factory at Meissen soon started producing a white bodied clay that was recognisably white porcelain. The earliest pieces were marked AR for Augustus Rex then KPM with Crossed swords (from Augustus’s crest) and then after 1722 the Crossed sword mark without the KPM was used as the main identifying mark to indicate Meissen Manufacture (as it still does).

The designer, Johann Gregorius Höroldt, who stayed with Meissen for 50 years from the early 1720s developed many of the colours and delicate designs that now make early Eighteenth Century Meissen both recognisable and extremely desirable. However, the prime influence for Meissen’s earliest forays into porcelain was the highly sought after Chinese porcelain that had originally sparked the race to make porcelain.

For example, one of the best known patterns that Meissen produced in the early days of the factory was the blue and white onion pattern (Zwiebelmuster) aka as the bulb pattern. It is believed that the decorations that bordered the original Chinese dishes were actually peaches or pomegranates (used on marriage and birthday porcelain as wishes for fertility and longevity) . The “onion/bulb” was a European interpretation of the pattern. (You can see more examples of the pattern by googling Meissen Onion Pattern and there is more info on Höroldt here http://www.getty.edu/art/collection/artists/997/johann-gregor-horoldt-german-1696-1775/ and on the pattern here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Onion)

Late 19th Century Meissen “Onion” pattern – in a re-working of the original early 18th Century Pattern

Seeking inspiration from the Chinese originals was not restricted to Blue and white – the rise in popularity of Chinese Imari porcelain (underglaze blue and white with overglaze red – often gilded) also captured a Meissen decorator’s imagination. An example of this cross-cultural exchange is the following piece. The first two illustrations are of an 18th Century Meissen tea bowl in the style of an earlier Chinese Imari piece. It is distinct from the Chinese Imari, with its dark cobalt/ almost black blue underglaze and its 14 spiraling lobes with an added purple pigment that became popular on later more extravagant Meissen pieces.

18th Century Meissen Tea bowl from the Peter M Schwarz Collection (used with permission)

This small tea bowl uses a pattern style that will be very familiar to collectors of later 18th Century porcelain from the Worcester Factory, although the pattern predates by over 50 years what became known as the “Queen Charlotte” pattern (after a visit to the Worcester factory by George III and his popular wife, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz c.1777).

Base and mark of an 18th Century Meissen Tea bowl from the Peter M Schwarz Collection (used with permission)

Not long after this pattern was introduced by Meissen, 18th Century Chinese makers were either commissioned to copy the Meissen pattern or were asked to make replacements for it. This early Eighteenth Century Tea bowl and Saucer copies the Meissen pattern so faithfully, it even mimics the Meissen mark. Although I am sure that there are many others, so far I have only seen three Chinese copies of the Meissen pattern, one is late Eighteenth Century, but the remaining two are earlier and almost identical to the Meissen original – the first was sold at Bonhams in 2017 as a reference piece from the superb Brigitte Britzke Collection (a well-known collector of Meissen) and the other is illustrated below from my own collection.

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antique, British, English Imari, Porcelain

English Imari – Lord Nelson Pattern

Admiral Lord Nelson ordered so much of this pattern from Chamberlains, Worcester that it is now named for him. Key features of this English imari pattern are the animals that hide in its borders. Coalport also made this pattern and there are several variants. Dating from c.1805-1815 here are two Coalport examples – with close-ups of the animals

antique, Chinese, Imari, Italian, Porcelain

Chinese Imari

Continuing on the Imari theme – I thought it might be interesting to look at closeups of a couple of pieces – and at the pitfalls of collecting – this pair dates from around 1720 – they are not quite the same as each other – the reds are slightly different, the level of gilding is different, the underglaze blue is differently spaced – so different ends of the factory? different artists? or maybe one is a replacement. See the reference piece on Gotheborg also shown below. Be careful though as this is a pattern that was copied with surprising accuracy by Doccia between 1760 and 1800 – so I include a dish from the Victoria & Albert museum online collection (black Background) dated by them as just pre 1800 which has Doccia’s marks on the back BUT a) not all Doccia is marked b) Doccia was one of the earliest European manufacturers to produce a convincing hard paste porcelain that is quite hard to differentiate from Chinese export pieces unless you have handled a lot – I have a piece and it was wrongly attributed by several experts including a well-known Auction house until I went to a specialist Museum in Cambridge (and a major auction house) who both recognised it.

Below a Doccia plate from the V&A Museum – late 18th Century

http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O278556/plate-doccia-porcelain-factory/
antique, blue, blue and white, British, Cups, English Imari, Imari, Porcelain, white

Picture Postcard Pattern

Several factories are known to have used this decoration and research is still continuing – reference pieces include these two teapots.

Teapot 1 Originally from the Godden Reference Collection now in the Author’s Collection
Teapot 2 From the Author’s Collection

Both teapots have been under scrutiny from acknowledged experts and both are still the objects of study.

Teapot 1 first appeared in print in Goddens’ Porcelain Maunfacturer’s book (here attributed to Cambrian Pottery, but later put into a “problem” Category as you can see below).

What makes attribution so difficult is, oddly, not the lack of pattern numbers or maker’s marks, though, clearly these don’t help. What makes it hard is the non-conformity of style, paste, design, glaze, shape and pattern between these pieces and other contemporary named pieces.

Current thinking is that Teapot 1 is probably A & E Keeling (formerly known as Factory X). Its hybrid paste and format putting it 1795-1800

Teapot 2 appears in Michael Berthoud’s second Teapot reference book (A Directory of British Teapots) as Plate 608 however the attribution to Turner is speculative and open, still, to debate (especially by at least one Turner collector).

Even more difficult to identify, it has also been suggested that it was an experimental piece of porcelain – certainly no other with this combination of spout and handle is known in hybrid paste. At one point it was mooted that it might be a Haynes experiment involving Rogers – but no corroborative documentation has been found.

My belief is that one of the teabowls and the saucer below may well have been made by the same factory as Teapot 2 (if not decorated by the same decorator).