A Japanese Imari porcelain beer tankard
Arita, 18th century
H. 15.2 x W. 12.5 cm
The bulbous body is surmounted by a cylindrical neck and with a C-shaped handle to one side. The handle is pierced near the top, as European stoneware tankards almost always were, to attach a pewter or silver lid with thumb rest. The exterior is painted in the typical Imari palette of underglaze blue, green and yellow enamels and overglaze iron-red and gold with an abundant decoration of flowering plants, including peony, chrysanthemum and prunus, and with two birds in flight. The front is painted with a circular vignette containing the letter ‘B’ in gold. The ‘B’ most probably refers to ‘beer’ which was consumed from tankards of this shape in the Netherlands. An example of a Meissen porcelain copy with cover, also displaying the letter ‘B’ and dating from the 1730s, is in the Dresden Collection. It is highly likely that an Imari tankard like the present one, as an example for the Meissen one, was in Augustus the Strong’s collection in Dresden (Reichel, F. Early Japanese porcelain: Arita porcelain in the Dresden Collection, 1981, no. 95). In the Victoria and Albert Museum, there is a blue-and-white export porcelain tankard of the same form (Earle, J. (ed) Japanese Art and Design, the Toshiba Gallery, Victoria and Albert Museum, London 1986, pp. 74-75).