Antiques Column: A popular style which spawned imitations

An example of Kakiemon ware from late 17th century Japan
An example of Kakiemon ware from late 17th century Japan

Kakiemon Ware was produced from the 1600s in Arita in the Hizen province of Japan. The porcelain was named after Sakaida Kakiemon who first introduced the technique of enamel decoration into Japan, perfecting the Chinese method of using overglaze colours and whose family continued the tradition and the kilns at Arita.

The wares, largely small dishes, bowls and vases commonly made in octagonal, hexagonal or square shapes as well as figures, were made of white, hard, paste porcelain known as ‘nigoshide’.

Kakiemon can be distinguished by its colours - soft iron red, sky blue, yellow and turquoise green and by its designs which were delicate, featuring birds, foliage, blossoms, bamboo, flying squirrels and famously quails.

The quail pattern depicting sprigs of foliage and little quails is one of the most recognizable Kakiemon designs.

Kakiemon wares were imported to the West and later copied and imitated by factories in Europe. Chantilly in France, founded in 1725 primarily to imitate the Kakiemon style, produced many faithful copies as well as their own wares and figures in the style of Kakiemon.

Meissen of Germany, however, went one step further and developed a relationship with Augustus the Strong and from 1729 was commissioned to make copies. They took the Kakiemon style and adapted it to create their own, known as ‘Indianische Blumen’ or Indian Flowers.

Meissen made such an impact with this new style that it actually had more influence on other manufacturers, such as Worcester, Bow and Chelsea, than the originals. In fact, European copies became more recognisable and familiar in the West than the originals.