Our featured museum pieces this month are real favorites here, and come from the resplendent Imari patterns by Royal Crown Derby. Both Old Imari and Traditional Imari were inspired by the imari designs that became popular throughout Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries, when various potteries, fabrics, and silks began to be imported from the Orient. The term Imari refers to various multicolored fabrics and porcelains which were imported from Japan during this time, and which bore designs that often layered geometric patterns with floral motifs.
Japanese decorative art relied heavily on flowing lines, a palette of rich colors, and dramatic gold accents. Europeans became enamored of the mysterious and intricate designs and European craftsmen began drawing from the Asian art when creating their own products. Old Imari pieces from our museum that are featured here include two 9 1/4” vases, a handled basket, and a 6 3/4” medium ginger jar. All are bone china and decorated with a color palette of rich cobalt blue and derby red.
Also featured is a very neat miniature tea set from the Traditional Imari pattern, consisting of a coffee pot, creamer, sugar bowl, and plate. Old Imari was introduced in 1901 and Traditional Imari was introduced one year later in 1902. While both patterns are indicative of Japanese applied arts, the Traditional Imari design is typically a bit less ornate than Old Imari. The most notable design attributes of the Imari patterns are the heavy gilding and burnished gold trim, the beautiful contrast between the cobalt blue and derby red colors, and the geometric contrast between fluid gold scrolls and angular gold latticework. If you are looking for real tableware “eye candy”, these pieces rank near the top of the list!
Regarding the Royal Crown Derby company, William Duesbury and Andrew Planche opened the original factory in Derby, England in 1750. At the time, the factory was known as the Chelsea Works. The two entrepreneurs chose an ideal location for their porcelain factory because Derby was known for its robust silk trade. Duesbury and Planche successfully fused the design artistry of the Oriental silk trade with modern industrial processes. In time, striking dinnerware designs in the imari style began to pour from Chelsea Works. In 1770, King George III recognized the exceptional pieces coming from Chelsea Works in Derby by awarding the company the use of the royal crown as its backstamp. At this time, the company changed its name to Crown Derby. During the Victorian era, the busy imari designs of Crown Derby became immensely popular. In 1890, Queen Victoria granted Crown Derby a Royal Warrant and named the company “Manufacturers of Porcelain to Her Majesty the Queen.” It is said that Queen Victoria especially admired the wares of Crown Derby. Since that time, the company has been known as Royal Crown Derby.
Today, the company continues its tradition of excellence and remains famous for patterns which feature the imari style. A variety of imari patterns have been produced over the years. Old Imari and Traditional Imari are by far two of the most popular imari designs, however, Replacements, Ltd. carries a variety of other imari patterns that have been produced by Royal Crown Derby, including Imperial Palace , Kedleston , and Derby Border .