DEAR HELAINE AND JOE: I am hopeful you can help solve a mystery. This dish is 4-by-2 inches, and the seller claimed it was antique Japanese Imari. It is not signed except it is mounted in 0.95 grade silver mountings which are signed “Cartier” “Made in France” and has the maker’s mark of Robert Linzeler, who worked for Cartier Paris during the late 1800s/early 1900s. Please can you identify the bowl as an antique Japanese Imari?
DEAR H.A.: First of all, the bowl is most certainly Japanese Imari style. Imari is the name of a Japanese port city from which Japanese-made porcelains were shipped to the West. The porcelain itself was made in kilns around the town of Arita. Besides the kilns in that location, there were six branch kilns and potteries in other nearby sites.
The wares made in these Arita kilns came in a variety of decorative color schemes. The first were simple blue and white (called “sometsuke”), but later there were three-color wares (blue and white plus red, called “sansei”) brocade Imari (called “nishikide”) and gold designs on red (called “kinrande”).
The piece belonging to H.A. is nishikide or brocade Imari, which can be found in many colors and was copied from some Chinese Ming and Qing dynasty examples. It is our understanding that the Japanese referred to any mass of brilliant colors as being “brocade.”
We believe this small bowl is indeed antique and was probably made in the late 19th century. It is a commercial quality piece that was exported in large quantities and was not intended to be artistic.
Now, we get to the part where we have a problem. Cartier was established in Paris in 1847 by Louis-Francois Cartier. It became one of the top suppliers of luxury goods in the world. They are known for their jewelry and wristwatches, and King Edward VII of Great Britain is said to have referred to them as the “jeweler to kings and the king of jewelers.”
We became a bit suspicious of the markings on the piece because the Imari bowl was not of sufficient quality (artistically speaking) to have been mounted by Linzeler (a famous French silversmith of the late 19th and early 20th centuries) and retailed by Cartier Paris. We compared the bowl’s marks to the marks found on several genuine examples of Cartier’s silver and gold work and found that the one on H.A.’s objects simply did not match.
The “Cartier” lettering on the silver is rather crude and not done in the same style as the genuine examples we examined. Unfortunately, we could not see the Minerva head that would designate 0.950 purity on French silver or the crowned “RL” in a diamond cartouche mark used by Linzeler, so we have our doubts about the authenticity.
Working from photographs, we cannot be absolutely sure, but we feel H.A. should take this into Cartier in Dubai for authentication. If it turns out to be genuine it should be valued in the $850 to $1,000 range.