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D2392 Blue and White Pyramidal Flower Vase, Adrianus Kocx, The Greek A, Delft, circa 1690

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•D2410. Blue and White Pyramidal Flower Vase

Delft, circa 1690

Marked with AK on the top of the plinth for Adriaen Kocx, the owner of De Grieksche A (The Greek A) factory from 1686 until 1701 and with painted numerals to the sections

The hexagonal base supported by paw feet under a foot-rim with a demi-ruyi-head band molded on each side with an architectural arch- shaped slightly recessed panel painted between columns bordered with foliage, with allegorical figures emblematic of Faith, Hope and Love. Each subject is repeated. The slightly canted upper and lower borders with a blue ground and decorated with leaves and scrolls, encircled by six triangular lotus and scroll ornaments in the interstices between six blue recumbent frogs supporting the six hexagonal tiers above; each tier with six open-mouthed fantasy animal heads forming the spouts, their necks encircled with two molded bands of circlets, and on the first tier painted between each on the first two tiers with a peacock perched on a rock amidst flowering plants, on the third tier with a peacock perched on a branch with double peony, on the fifth tier a peacock perched on breaches and the top with triangular floral devices.

95 cm. (37.4 in.) high

Sir Cecil W.H. Beaton (1904 – 1980) Reddish House, Wiltshire, England through 1980

The pyramid-shaped flower vases that are still present today in museums and private collections were certainly not part of the regular assortment of the Delft potters. The production process was highly complicated and expensive. Due to marked examples, we know that of the approximately 30 pottery company’s circa five companies were involved in the production of flower vases. De Grieksche A (The Greek A), De Metaale Pot (The Metal Pot) and De Witte Sterre (The White Star) were at the top of the list. Over a period of sixty years from around 1680 to 1740, they sold a multitude of different types of vases with spouts and holes. The royal and noble clientele was always looking for the latest and extraordinary models, to impress their friends and relatives. Flower pyramids were often placed in fireplaces, when they were out of use in the summer time.

The main ambassador for Delftware was Queen Mary (1662-1694) II the consort of William II, Prince of Orange, Stadhouder of the Netherlands. In 1686, the famous French designer Daniel Marot (1661- 1752) came to the Netherlands and because of his artistic qualities he soon entered the service of the royal couple.

Many of the exquisite Delft models, are decorated directly after Marot’s designs. Although both the Royal couple as Marot were protestant; Marot created pure baroque art. Exuberant and anything but modest. Despite the restrained Protestant image, the royal couple went completely along with the baroque taste of that time. In fact; Queen Mary can be regarded as an important ambassador of the Baroque interior. The specific style even became known as ‘William and Mary’.

The designs of Marot where full of symbolism that emphasized the status of the royal couple. The pyramid shape for example, symbolizes the fame and glory of the monarch. This made it a popular shape for tulip vase. According to an inventory made of the stock of ‘De Metaale pot’ (The metal Pot) from 1691, we know that several flower pyramids have been made.

This particular hexagonal type however, is one of the very few known. All complete pyramids or parts, bear the mark of Adriaen Kocx, except from a pair of bases in Delft. This makes it assumable that the hexagon shaped pyramids have been exclusively produced in ‘De Grieksche A’ (The Greek A) factory.

Interpreting why this special shape could have been chosen, brings us back to Roman times. Around 36 BC, famous Roman scholar, Marcus Terentius Varro, developed his Honeycomb conjecture, which states that a hexagonal grid or honeycomb has the least total perimeter of any subdivision of the plane into regions of equal area. This makes it the perfect shape to express divinity. According to George Ferguson in his Signs and Symbols in Christian Art, from 1954: “Six is the number of creation and perfection, it also symbolizes divine power, majesty, wisdom, love, mercy, and justice”.”In Christian iconography, the six sides of a hexagon refer to the shape of a casket which in turn symbolizes the aversion to sin, departure of this life and the journey to the New Jerusalem. It is therefore that pulpits, from with the audience was prepared for this transition, very often have a hexagonal shape. In a time when symbolism was still of such great importance, it must have been very appealing for William and Mary to have a Delftware flower pyramid in this divine shape. Direct inspiration for Adriaen Kocx, could have been the porcelain pagode, depicted on an engraving called ‘Porcelleyne Tooren’ by Johan Nieuhof (1618-1672) in 1665.

A very similar pyramidal flower vase, with different scenes on the base, is in the collection of the the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia (inv. no. 2014.288.a-g) and is illustrated in Aronson, Delftware, Queen Mary’s Splendor, 2014, p.51.

A flower pyramid in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum (inv. no. C.615-1925) is similar in shape to the present vase, in form and decoration and is painted with the coat of arms and motto of John Churchill (1650-1722) as Earl of Marlborough (1689-1702) a title awarded to him by William III for his support during the Glorious Revolution.

Another very similar hexagonal seven-tier flower pyramid in shape and decoration, marked AK, is in the Devonshire collection at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire (inv no. 142.1) 118 cm high. It was ordered by the 1st Duke of Devonshire, another supporter of William and Mary It is illustrated in Van Aken Fehmers, 2007, pp. 136-138, no 2.10

In the Colonial Williamsburg collection, is a pair of hexagonal shaped tulip pyramids, (inv. no. 1936-484,1A-G), with a different decoration and the spouts have been attached on different levels. One of the pair is iIllustrated in Suzanne Lambooy, ‘Koninklijk Blauw’ Zwolle, 2020, p. 216, il. 227.

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