A rare early 18th century Delft blue and white tin-enamelled earthenware tulipiere, the four baluster shaped sections profusely decorated with patterns inspired by Chinese Ming porcelain, with bands of caduceus marks and European-inspired decoration interspersed throughout.
Private UK collection
With Salomon Stodel in the 1980's
Private US collection
In the collection of the museum at Brno in the Czech Republic is a similarly shaped vase (top segment missing) and marked with a six pointed fully drawn star, De Witte Ster. Aronson had a similar type in their collection but with the two middle segments replaced by a connecting ring. The Mallett example is the only complete one.
Stodel tentatively attributed the Mallett tulipiere to De Grieksche A/AK, which results in a dating of between 1688-1702. Aronson attributes their example to De Witte Ster, based on the example at Brno.
The history of Delft pottery can be traced back to the foundation of the Dutch East India Company in 1602. Upon its establishment Chinese ‘Kraak’ porcelain as well as a plethora of other forms of oriental ceramic art flooded into Holland and made a great impression on the Delft potteries of the time.
Although tin-glazed pottery, with its distinctive white sheen, had been produced in the Netherlands for almost one hundred years, it was only with the advent of the Dutch East India Company that Dutch potters became familiar with the intricate patterned designs and began replicating them. As with the exceedingly popular Chinese porcelain they were mainly decorated with a blue paint, though multi-coloured designs were also produced. As word of Delftware began to spread aristocrats and royals alike began to take notice, culminating in royal patronage from some of the most distinguished European monarchs of the day. The coregency of William and Mary is perhaps the best example of the enthusiastic patronage enjoyed by the potteries; Mary, enamoured with ‘this Delft art’ was partly responsible for the great popularity of the sprouted flower vases and commissioned a great many during her lifetime.
The ascension of the Delftware trade was also synonymous with ‘Tulip Mania’, a period in the 17th century where speculation on the value of tulip bulbs (recently introduced to the Netherlands) caused them to reach astronomical prices. Although the price eventually collapsed, tulips remained a staple of the period known as the ‘Dutch Golden Age’ and many of the Delft ceramics produced at this time were flower vases with sprouts and holes or ‘tulipiere’ used for displaying tulips and other flowers. The sprouts that protrude from the majority of 17th century Delft tulipiere differ greatly from their European and Chinese counterparts; for example the Delft sprouts are smaller and feature in greater number – it was acceptable for a large vase to have in excess of thirty sprouts.
A majority of tulipiere often feature the regimented geometry of a pyramid, deriving specific influence from the ‘Porcelain Pagoda’ in Nanking, China. The organic, curvilinear design and size of this tulipiere is quite rare, a similar example on a smaller scale forms part of the collection at Dyrham Park in Gloucestershire.
The practice of displaying flowers in vases within residential and ecclesiastical buildings has existed in Europe since the late Middle Ages, with early publications on the subject such as Giovanni Battista Ferrari’s De Florum Cultura proving influential. It is fair to assume that works such as this alongside the constant change in thinking with regards to botany, helped to solidify the tulipiere’s perennial evolution and multifarious forms.
G. Ferrari and B. Rottendorff, Flora seu de Florum Cultura Libri IV. The Bavarian State Library, 1633, p.421
T. Volker, Porcelain and the Dutch East India Company: 1602 – 1683. Leiden, 1955.
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