Lot 10
  • 10

A set of four Japanese porcelain Kakiemon sake bottles and covers, late seventeenth century

80,000 - 120,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Porcelain
  • each approximately 22.7cm., 8 7/8 in. high
of square-section long-necked bottle form, the sides with alternating vignettes of flowering wild cherry or chrysanthemum trees, the tall, slender necks with formal pendent lambrequins formed of peony and chrysanthemum branches, the small flat covers with gilt button knops


Willem Joseph Baron van Brienen (1760-1839), Mayor of Amsterdam, Huis Van Brienen, Amsterdam;
Arnold Willem Baron van Brienen de Groote Lindt (1783-1854), Huis Van Brienen, Amsterdam; 
Angélique Adelaïde Louise Caroline van Brienen de Groote Lindt (1833-1921), Huis van Brienen Amsterdam, then following her marriage to Simon Gerard Louis d’Alsace de Hénin-Liétard (1832-1891) in 1852, moved to Bourlemont Castle;
Thierry Arnaud Laurent Comte d’Alsace Prince de Hénin (1853-1934), Bourlemont Castle and Huis van Brienen Amsterdam (donated to the Hendryck de Keyser foundation in 1933);
Thence by descent in the same family, at Bourlemont Castle 



Claus Boltz, 'Japanisches Palais-Inventar 1770 und Turmzimmer-Inventar 1769' in Keramos, Vol. 153, July 1996, p. 22-23;
Yvan Trouselle, La Voie du Imari: L'aventure des porcelaines à l'époque Edo, Paris, 2008, for the model and the Meissen comparable;
John Ayers, Oliver Impey, J. V. G. Mallet, Porcelain for Palaces, The Fashion for Japan in Europe, 1650-1750, exh. cat., London, 1990, p. 145, no. 111, for a related model;
Julia Weber, Meißener Porzellane mit Dekoren nach ostasiatischen Vorbildern, Stiftung Ernst Schneider in Schloss Lustheim, Band II, Munich, 2013, pp. 129-132, for a discussion on the model and the Meissen comparable


Of this exceptionally rare set of four Kakiemon bottles, one bottle has a small flat chip to a corner of the foot and there is a minute firing crack to an edge of the foot which has extended to the underside slightly. Three of the bottles have very minor and sympathetic professional restoration to minute chips to extremities; of these one bottle has a minute restored rim chip and a minute area to one edge of the neck, another bottle has a similar area to one corner edge of the upper part of the neck, and the third at a corner of the rim. Two of the covers have a chipped corner to the top edge, a third has two chipped corners, which have been professionally restored. The fourth cover is in good condition.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Bottle vases of this form, known in Japanese as four-sided pear-shaped bottles kakutsubo, are known in only a few patterns. The Kakiemon family are said by tradition to have set up their celebrated enamelling kilns at Nangawara outside Arita in 1643 or even before, initially making typical local wares before learning the secret of enamelling on porcelain from a Chinese potter at Nagasaki.

The facts are more elusive, and it is interesting to note that the name Kakiemon was not used in Japan to define a type of decoration until well into the eighteenth century. As Yvan Trouselle (op. cit., p. 70) says, even if the Kakiemon family was truly set up and in production at the time alleged, and has perpetuated the style ever since, it seems unlikely that they were alone at the beginning.

Early Kakiemon enamel production seems to date more securely from around 1670, and then to have run its course by around 1720, according to a 1723 document in the Kakiemon archives. A few pieces in the style appear to date from later in the eighteenth century but may not have been made at the Kakiemon kilns. The style was properly revived only in the early twentieth century, with Sakaida Kakiemon 12th and 13th, helped by the rediscovery of the secret of the difficult nigoshide (milk white) paste.

Through the course of the 17th century East India trading companies were set up with assistance of funding from princely or private individuals. These companies opened the trading route between Asia and Europe, which was eager to procure the precious Oriental ‘true’ porcelain. The United East India Company was one of the first to be established, in the Netherlands in 1602, and was particularly active in the shipment of porcelain. From the mid-17thcentury onwards large quantities of wares including cups, teabowls, plates and vases were imported into Europe. Being acquired by the agents of the Nobility and Aristocracy these highly precious objects were used to decorate the princely reception rooms and Porzellankammers or ‘China Closets’ of European Baroque palaces. Queen Mary II of England (1662-1694) was famously impassioned by porcelain, and of the 787 pieces in the Kensington Palace inventory of her collection, 103 were almost certainly polychrome1, which we can assume were of kakiemon-type. In the inventory one entry describing the arrangement 'over the chimney' mentions 'two flasks of six square each.'2, which hints at similar forms to the present bottles that were in the Queen's collection.

By the 1720s ‘old’ Japanese porcelain was seen as being far superior in quality to any other imports reaching Europe. These bottles were a popular and influential design in European porcelain, and very close copies were made at the Meissen factory among other factories. Founder of the Meissen factory Augustus the Strong, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland (1674-1733) owned Japanese examples of this form in his collection of ‘Far Eastern’ porcelain. One such bottle with Johanneum collection number ‘N 15-x’, which subsequently entered the collection of David Sachs Esq and was sold in these rooms, 10th March 1970, lot 2; another with Johanneum number ‘N=43’ appeared again at auction at Christie's, 17th February 1976, lot 32.

Of the Meissen examples, the inventory of Augustus the Strong’s Japanisches Palais of 1770 lists 'Drey und Dreyßig Stück detto [Flaschen] 4.eckichte, mit langen Hälsen, 9 ½. Zoll hoch, 4. Zoll in [] mit bunten Blumen, No. 139.', [Thirty-three pieces ditto (bottles) four cornered with long necks, with coloured flowers, height: 9 1/2 Zoll, 4 Zoll square]. Bottles of this type were sold in the sales of the Royal Saxon Collections held by Rudolph Lepke’s Kunst-Auctions-Haus in 1919 and 1920, lots 129-130 and 136 respectively. A pair of Meissen bottles, with their rarely-found covers, one with Augustus the Strong's Johanneum number 'N=139', was sold in these rooms, 28th May 2009, lot 314;

A single Japanese bottle was sold at Christie's New York, 15th September 1999, lot 20 ($48,300). Yvan Trouselle, La Voie du Imari, illustrates both a Japanese example in the Kakiemon Museum at Arita (pl. 75), and a faithful Meissen copy (with its flat cover) in the Musée de Sèvres (pl. 171).

1. L. Rosenfeld Shulsky, Queen Mary’s Collection of Porcelain and Delft and its Display at Kensington Palace, in American Ceramic Circle Journal, Spring 1990, p .57.
2. L. R. Shulsky, Addendum in Kakiemon porcelain from the English country house: flowers of fire, London 1989, p. 31-32.