Mark under an Imari whistle
: October 2003


A collector bought this whistle from an antique dealer. Its origin was unknown

General description:

It is a crawling baby shaped whistle. The child's legs are the whistle. The open mouth makes it possible to modulate the sound.

A blue mark underlines the base of the head and another one is located right before the window of the whistle.A blue spot at the top of the head and another one on the left represent the hair. The eyes are simply marked with a black point.
Red flowers are sown on the body and the legs. The good condition of the flowers near the mouth piece indicates a rare use of this whistle. The general state is good even if the enamel painting of some flowers is worn.

Octobre 2003: le sifflet du mois
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L: 7,8 cm
H: 3,2 cm
L: 2,9 cm
  Sifflet de style Imari
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L: 7,5 cm
H: 3,4 cm
L: 2,9 cm
Decorations and models:

Several decorations are known in other private collections. Another model of child with a larger head is frequent. It is impossible to know which one is the older.

A rarer model represents a young child holding a dog. The mouth piece is under the base.

Imari whistle. Baby with a dog

L: 3,2 cm
H: 8,5 cm
L: 3,3 cm
  Study of the object :

Typology: This whistle is a globular whistle. The volume of air is small so the whistle is high-pitched. The finger hole makes it possible to modulate slightly the sound (semitone).

Technique: These moulded whistles are made with a porcelain containing kaolin added with natural clays and flux. The whistle is covered with a transparent glaze containing feldspar and quartz which is vitrified between 1200 and 1300° and forms a unit with the shard. The major blue marks (blue of cobalt) are posed before the first firing under the glaze while the decoration of the small red and gold flowers is painted over the glaze and is the subject of a second firing at a lower temperature ("muffle fire").

  Several specialists attribute these whistles to the Japanese production of "Imari" style made in the 19th century.

Some whistles are marked but those marks are not referenced. For some authors, those whistles are "chopsticks rests" produced for the Western tables.

The Japanese porcelain was born in the 16th C. with the discovery of a kaolin deposit in the south of the archipelago on the island of Kyushu.
Many kilns were built around Arita, a city of the North-West of the island. The first creations were inspired by the blue and white Chinese porcelains made for Europe. Very quickly, the Japanese production captured the Asiatic market before the European one competing there with the Chinese produces. The name of "Imari "is given to the production of Japanese porcelain produced for Europe. Imari is the name of the port where those items were shipped.

This exportation, after an eclipse during the 18th century, started again in the 19th century.

The whistles are far from the traditional Japanese models. They are closer to the whistles in China where these baby shaped whistles are frequent. This similarity between the Imari and Chinese production is a constant due to the permanent links between these two countries.
Although of Eastern facture, these whistles were manufactured for the Western market so their symbolism is not studied here even if those symbols are very important for the traditional Japanese whistles.

Sifflet en forme de bébé rampant
Whistle of the province of Shandong
Porcelain. China
Photo: "Volkstümliches chinesisches Spielzeug"' 1990.
Author: Mr. LU PU.

  Sifflet en forme de pigeon
Aomori Japon
Whistle of Aomori
20th century.
Private col.

The famoust traditional Japanese whistles are made in the town of Aomori. The lord who reigned in this district during the Middle Ages built a kiln for the tiles of his castle. After the firing, he let his population use the kiln for their pottery and clay toys.

The famoust toy is the pigeon shaped whistle: "hato-bue". In the former times, the mothers of this region offered these whistles to their children in order to protect them from the hystery.

Pigeon shaped whistle 
Aomori Japon