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D2461. Polychrome Garniture

Delft, circa 1780

Marked with J.18- and a star for De Witte Ster (The White Star) factory

Comprising three baluster-form vases and covers and a pair of beaker vases, each of round shape and painted with a Chinese landscape scene of flowers and fences in manganese, yellow, blue, green and iron-red below a large flowering branch and a willow tree, all within a molded rococo cartouche, and the covers painted within the molded cartouche with floral decoration, and surmounted by a seated foo-dog in yellow.

Height: 33 cm. (13 in.)

Aronson Antiquairs, sold at the International Ceramics Fair & Seminar in London, 1995;
English Private collection, London, 2023

The history of garnitures follows the development of ceramics as a decorative interior feature. Although the first garnitures were made in Chinese porcelain, the fashion for grouping vases on mantels is a European phenomenon. Delftware garnitures usually combine several forms of vases decorated with matching patterns. Just like the Chinese counterpart, they were frequently placed symmetrically on top of a porcelain cabinet, on a mantelpiece or on the panel of the door. Their design and display follows the evolution of interior design in Europe. Although some models were timeless, their design and decoration were often following the latest fashion.

Initially inspired by the Chinese porcelain wares that were brought to the Netherlands by the Dutch East India Company (VOC) in the beginning of the seventeenth century, the Dutch modelers and painters often incorporated exotic features in their earthenware objects. The ‘foo-dog’ is one exotic subject that was used by the Dutch in both the paintwork and the modeled knops. The term ‘foo- dog’ is not the Western name for a Chinese dog, but for the Chinese guardian lions or Imperial guardian lions that were believed to protect against evil. These Buddhist lions are a common motif on Chinese porcelain. Even today, lion pairs are often placed at the entrances to temples, government offices and restaurants in China. The term “foo” may be a transliteration to the Chinese characters that mean “Buddha” or “prosperity,” respectively. However, Chinese reference to the guardian lions are seldom prefixed with these characters, and more importantly never referred to as “dogs.”

Further, the Chinese porcelain factories in the eighteenth century changed the way they portrayed lions, from a sharp-clawed savage feline to a friendlier-looking beast. As in Chinese porcelain, the covers of Delftware vases are also sometimes surmounted with a knop in the shape of the foo-dog, as this polychrome garniture shows.

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