Height: 6 inches, 15.2 cm
Width: 5 inches, 12.5 cm

Imari porcelain tankard

Japan, 18th century

An export Imari porcelain tankard, the bulbous sides surmounted by a cylindrical neck and with a C-shaped handle to one side. The handle is pierced near the top. 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 initial ‘B” in gold.

The “B” painted on the front most probably refers to either ‘beer’ or ‘brandy’, two liquids that were often consumed from mugs like this. An example of a Meissen copy with porcelain cover, also displaying the letter “B” and dating from the 1730’s, is in the Dresden Collection, so it is highly likely that an example of this pattern was in Augustus the Strong’s collection.[1] Describing a blue and white export porcelain tankard in the Victoria and Albert Museum, Joe Earle comments: Tankards were almost always mounted in pewter or silver, and a preformed hole in the handle served for the attachment of lid and thumbrest.[2]

  1. Reichel, F. Early Japanese porcelain: Arita porcelain in the Dresden Collection, 1981, no. 95
  2. Earle, J. (ed) Japanese Art and Design, the Toshiba Gallery, Victoria and Albert Museum, London 1986, pp. 74-5