The Dutch East India Company had already begun the importation of Japanese porcelain shortly before Charles II ascended the English throne. His astute marriage to Catherine of Braganza ensured safe harbour for the English trading posts and his royal patronage enabled the English East India Company to flourish.
Increasing trade to the Far East led to Javanese ambassadors arriving at court in 1682. They were entertained by the minister, John Maitland, Duke of Lauderdale. Lauderdale’s apartments at Ham were designed by William Samwell, the King’s architect and were furnished in the Oriental manner with lacquered and ‘Japanned’ cabinets, screens, tables and mirrors and were richly embellished with porcelain, including Japanese (see lot 56).
In 1685 Charles was succeeded by James II, a monarch at the centre of porcelain collecting. He was said to have astounded the court at Versailles with his knowledge of Asian ceramics. After centuries of blue and white, the Kakiemon wares, enamelled with brightly coloured flowers caused considerable delight and it contrasted well against the black ebonised or ‘Japanned’ furnishings. James II’s interest in porcelain was fostered by his daughter, Mary Stuart, through her marriage to the Dutch Stadtholder, William of Orange, in 1677. She became a fanatical gardener and patron of the Delft factories. It was from these factories that many pieces were sent to Japan for copying.
In 1688 William III and Mary II ascended the English throne, which led to an avalanche of porcelain descending on the English interior. Fashionable ladies, who mimicked the Queen’s mania for China were said to have ruined their families and estates with the expense of it.
In 1703 the émigré Huguenot, Daniel Marot (d. 1732), architect to William of Orange, published ‘Oeuvres’ or Works in Architecture, which helped to popularise the William and Mary style and the fashion of furnishing with porcelain.
Mary, with the assistance of Hans William Bentinck, pursued this passion at Kensington Palace. In 1697 and 1699 inventories of Kensington Palace, drawn up by William III’s valet de chambre, list the display of almost a thousand pieces of Asian ceramics and Delft. These included Kakiemon and Kakiemon related pieces. There were 193 pieces in one bedchamber, arranged in pyramidical schemes above the doors, including ‘basins of 8 square each, with branches and birds on them of red, green and blue’ (possibly, similar to the octagonal bowl, see lot 64).
For a similar vase and cover in the collection of Burghley House, Northamptonshire see Mark Hinton and Oliver Impey, Kakiemon porcelain from The English Country House (London, 1989), pl.11 p.39
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