It was the Dutch East India Company who, in 1650, opened the doors of Europe to the import of Japanese porcelain. Most of this early Japanese export porcelain was decorated as blue and white, much favored by the Dutch and still widely collected in the Netherlands today.
The Japanese Emperor had granted the Dutch a concessional trading port and factory to meet the growing demand for Japanese ceramics. These export kilns were situated at Arita in Japan's Hizen province. Not far from Arita was the great trading port of Imari. All export to the west left Japan through this port and it was from this port that the famous Japanese Imari porcelain takes its name.
This relationship is quite often missed, leading to much Japanese porcelain being attributed to "The Imari" factory. As the export trade increased, the demand for new shapes and colours grew, leading to the bright "Imari” patterns that are so distinctively recognised today.
These patterns, were in fact, derived from the sometimes identical patterns found in Japanese textiles and brocade, the coloured palette of enamels selected by the porcelain decorators in imitation of the silks chosen by the textile makers.
A standard range of colours make up the traditional palette of Imari decoration. A rich cobalt blue combines with a deep iron red to produce the basic colours. These two colours can then be embellished with pale blue, yellow, aubergine, greens and black. These brightly coloured Imari porcelains were much favored by Europeans of the 18th and 19th centuries with their bright brocade-like colours, cheering up the long dark days of winter.
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