I have been diligently working on this mixed media piece for the last few weeks. It was commissioned by a friend and collector whose mother owned this lovely Japanese fishbowl planter filled with a similar white orchid in her home years ago. When she recently passed away, I was asked to paint this work to evoke a special memory. It was an honor to do so.
An exquisite, large white phalaenopsis orchid placed in the original fishbowl planter has been living in our front window while I carefully transcribed the details of the pot and the orchid's arch. The large blossoms of this flower are stunning white with yellow-red centers and a gorgeous purple tinge framing the outer petals. I loved working from the live plant as there were so many details that do not show in a photograph!
The origin of the planter is unknown but it looks very much like the Japanese Imari style of porcelain that was made during the late 17th and early 18th century. The boldly colorful style derives its name from the port of Imari near Arita where the porcelain pieces were exported to European and Chinese buyers. In the 1800s the Imari style became popular and many variations were made. At this point, the style was influenced by Indian aesthetics fusing Indian and Japanese style. English porcelain companies followed, absorbing this style into their collections. The Chinese also adopted the Imari style and began making "Chinese Imari" for European collectors. Since then, many decorative copies of Imari style have been found in both China and Europe.
Imari style porcelain is characterized by blue underglaze with red and gold overglaze. The chrysanthemum motif seen on this pot is very common in Imari ware as it symbolizes autumn and was the imperial crest. This colorful and ornate koi fish, a Japanese symbol of love and friendship, appears as the central motif in this piece. The sinuous lines of the surrounding water and curvilinear patterns throughout the bowl bring a sense of movement to the design. Decorated with swimming fish, the interior of this pot indicates its original use as a container for goldfish. Today many decorative ceramic pots like this are made to resemble antique fishbowls.
The completed piece is a 16x 20 mixed media painting, created with watercolor, colored pencil, decorative papers, and ribbons. It is accented with gold and silver metallic line work and adorned with dark blue opalescent beads.
For more information on Japanese Imari Porcelain, see The Victoria and Albert Museum's article on Japanese ceramic styles, and Wikipedia on Imari Porcelain.