Japanese Imari Charger

Edo Period. Ca. 1850
Kiln seal present
12½” x 12½”

This charger was originally produced in Japan and taken to Korea to be presented to Dr. Moffet, an esteemed American missionary in Korea. Dr. Moffet, a medical doctor from Chicago, had done so much for the Korean people after the Japanese occupation that he was given honorary Korean citizenship by the Korean government. Japanese Imari was very rare in Korea at that time.

Dr. Moffet eventually gave this charger to his adopted Korean son, Mr. Chung Dal Ho, a professor of Korean History and Antiquity, and an avid collector of Asian antiques. He was one of only thirteen government- certified certifiers in Korea. Mr. Chung discovered this charger in one of his Korean antique chests, after having forgotten about it and left it in the chest for many years.

During the Edo period, Blue-and-White wares were made for domestic use, not for export, and were called “sometsuke mono” in Japan. The Japanese valued them because of their simplicity and utilitarian look, which were more suitable to Japanese surroundings. The ruggedness of pottery, rather than fine porcelain, appealed more to their practical nature and taste. They could appreciate this brand of beauty and charm and disliked the fine porcelain with multi-colors made for Europe which appealed to Western taste but found no demand in Japan.

This plate has the classical look of early blue-and-white wares, which show a generous amount of white space and not crowded with designs. It shows a landscape of towering mountains and pine trees, with a couple of sailboat peeping out around the bend of low hills and rock formation. It is a scene borrowed from classical Chinese landscape paintings, the kind the Japanese admired so much and typically copied as a model in early Japanese art. It was not until quite late that purely Japanese designs evolved.

The blue on this plate is produced by some form of cobalt or indigo pigment painted directly into the biscuit (paste), after which the plate is glazed. The unclustered look and the dark and soft blue hues of the pattern give this charger a quiet beauty so appreciated by the Japanese of olden days. The bottom of the plate is decorated with floral sprigs in dark cobalt blue, connected by a slim circular line in blue, on a white ground. Three more thin blue circular lines complete the design. The rim of the plate is a little rugged, showing that this plate was much used and appreciated for what it was meant to be, for household use. It adds character to the plate and does not diminish the value of the plate. An under-the-glaze blue seal mark of the kiln producing this plate is at the bottom of the plate.

Since this plate was presented as a gift to a highly esteemed person in Korea, it is of significant value. This plate is certified.