With the 2014 edition of The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF) being staged March 13 24 in Maastricht in the Netherlands, Amsterdam specialist Delft dealer, Robert Aronson, fifth generation head of Aronson Antiquairs
has announced that a highlight of his stand at TEFAF will be a special exhibition titled Queen Mary's Splendor and featuring a Rare Bouquetiere Figure of a Lady, said to be Queen Mary II or Mary Stuart, the co-regent with William of Orange of Holland and England during what has been described as a Glorious Revolution from 1689 until her death in 1694.
Robert Aronson says, Queen Mary II has long been viewed as a Patron Saint of Dutch Delftware. Without surviving children, she devoted much of her time to gardening and a passion for Blue and White porcelain and its counterparts in Dutch Delft. Magnificent examples of Delft not only filled her Paleis Het Loo residence in Apeldoorn but also Kensington Palace in London and Hampton Court Palace on the Thames. She ordered many large urns, vases and flower pyramids from The Greek A Factory, or De Grieksche A Factory, during the ownership of both Samuel van Eeenhoorn and Adrianus Kocx, the leading makers of Delft, thereby establishing a fashion for such vessels among tastemakers of the time in the Netherlands, England and France.
Aronson also announced the publication of a 144 page catalogue with more than seventy rare 17th and 18th century Dutch Delftware items acquired from both private and specialist sources especially for connoisseurs of Delft.
Its not hard to see why this rare Figure of Lady holding a Bouquetiere would be thought to be Mary herself with both her elaborate ribboned coiffure and signature large pearls prominently replicated in the 42cm tall Delft figure.
The figures kimono would have been a rare import from Japan during the VOCs bustling trade on the island of Deshima in Nagasaki Harbor from 1641. Few ladies of the time would have been able to afford such an elaborate silk robe. No doubt The Greek A Factory were well aware of Marys passion for both gardening and blue and white oriental porcelain and its reasoned that this figure was a tribute to the Queen, who tragically died of small pox when she was just 32.
Mary and Williams reign coincided with a massive rebuilding and refurbishment program that imparted great grandeur to their palace residences. Mary had her own pavilion, the Water Gallery at Hampton Court where much of her prized Delftware was displayed. As discussed by W. Erkelens, Koninklijk Delfts porselein (Royal Delft porcelain) in Lahaussois 2008, pp. 92-97, ills. 5-10, the Water Gallery included a dairy with sizeable milk dishes and large ornamental tiles decorated with designs after Daniel Marot (1662-1752), the court designer (who, as a French Huguenot had brought the style of Louis XIV [1638-1715] to the Protestant court of William and Mary), as well as a gallery where large flower pyramids and vases were placed, and into which opened a little room in each of the four corners: a mirrored room, one of marble, one for the bath, and one of Delft porcelain (ibid., p. 92). As described by the English journalist and novelist, Daniel Defoe (c. 1660-1731), the Water Gallery was the pleasantest little thing within doors that could possibly be made (Daniel Defoe, A Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain, [1724-1726; Harmondsworth 1986]. p. 183). Defoe then described the Queens collection of Delftware and Chinese porcelain at Hampton Court:
Her majesty had here a fine apartment, with a sett of lodgings, for her private retreat only, but most exquisitely furnishd; particularly a fine chints bed, then a great curiosity; another of her own work, while in Holland, very magnificent, and several others; and here was also her majestys fine collection of Delft ware, which indeed was very large and fine; and here was also a vast stock of fine china ware, the like whereof was not then to be seen in England; the long gallery, as above, was filld with this china, and every other place, where it could be placd, with advantage. (ibid.)
A second rare Delft piece in the QUEEN MARYS SPLENDOR exhibition at TEFAF and in the new Aronson catalogue also has a connection with Hampton Court. Robert Aronson is offering a Pair of Large Blue and White Delft Jardinières or Garden urns (33.1 cm) with unusual Mask Handles in high relief. He says The previous dating of this pair was circa 1735 based on similarity to a well-known Dutch Delft punch bowl inscribed and dated George Skinner Boston 1732 in the collection of the Winterthur Museum in Delaware.
The recognition of the need for re-dating the garden urns was the result of the discovery of a garden urn (fig. 1) at Hampton Court Palace, the English residence of William III (1650-1702) and Queen Mary II (1662-1694), with very similar decoration. When no record could be found of any Dutch Delftware being added to the collection at Hampton Court after the death of Queen Mary in 1694, other than the few pieces Mary had ordered in the last months of her life, it became evident that the present pots must have been made no later than 1695 nearly forty years earlier than the punch bowl and the previous accepted dating.
It is conceivable that garden urns of this type continued to be made after the queens death, but it is unlikely that the style and grandeur of these pieces would have remained popular for many years thereafter, and certainly would have been expensive special orders. While it cannot be assumed that this pair of jardinières was necessarily part of a royal commission, it is tempting to imagine that it is not impossible, as it has been suggested by R. Liefkes and P. Ferguson in Lahaussois 2008, p. 104, that during William IIIs royal progressions, the King may have offered specially-commissioned pieces or even some of his wifes ceramics, as gifts to his hosts. Nevertheless, the jardinières certainly owe their inspiration to royal tastes in both Holland and England at an important moment during the Golden Age of Delft.
A similarly decorated garden urn of this shape but 39.1 cm. (15 ⅜ in) high and with slightly different mask handles and a more prominent foot, is illustrated in Aronson, 1990, ill. 13; and another slightly larger pair with mythological decoration, four mask handles and a more domed foot is illustrated in Aronson 2005, pp. 19-21, no. 17. A pair of garden urns of this larger size, circa 1701-20, marked PAK for Pieter Adriaensz. Kocx of De Grieksche A (The Greek A) Factory, but with a square foot and scroll handles and decorated with frolicking putti, is illustrated by Erkelens 1996, pp. 103 and 111, no. 23.
After Marys death William continued his reign for eight more years until his own death from pneumonia following a riding accident in 1702. Without a direct heir, William was succeeded on the English throne by his sister-in-law, Queen Anne (1665-1714). In Holland his death brought an end to the House of Orange, but not to the flourishing Delft factories, which Queen Marys taste and patronage had done so much to promote.