Vases in groups of five or more were among the most popular decorative items ordered from China by Europeans, particularly the Dutch, during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The standard set of these so-called garnitures, usually three covered round vases of baluster form alternating with two flaring beakers, was used to decorate rooms and chimney pieces in the homes of the wealthy.
This set is especially ornamental. Underglaze blue borders of scrolls, garlands, and diaper patterns frame scenes with Chinese figures in architectural or landscape settings rendered in the “mandarin palette” dominated by purple, gold, iron-red, green, and sepia overglazes. Although generally associated with the Dutch market during much of the eighteenth century, garnitures such as these with elaborate decoration became desirable in the emerging American market by the later years of the century.
Ellen Paul Denker and Bert R. Denker
Excerpted from Jonathan L. Fairbanks. Becoming a Nation: Americana from the Diplomatic Reception Rooms, U.S. Department of State. New York: Rizzoli, 2003.