The unusual King Willem III and Queen Mary II “bouquetière” was attributed to The Greek A Factory, where many of the most important Delft flowerpots and tulip vases were ordered by the Royal couple who were known to decorate their palaces with blue and white Delftware, underscoring their love for gardening. (Courtesy Aronson Antiquairs)
AMSTERDAM.- Earlier this year, Aronson Antiquairs, world leading Delft dealers based in Amsterdam, revealed an exceptional, large (42cm) Delft “bouquetière” in the shape of an elegant lady dressed in a loose-fitting gown and holding a basket. The lady was delicately made, with many fine details and 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.
The unusual “bouquetière” was attributed to The Greek A Factory, where many of the most important Delft flowerpots and tulip vases were ordered by the Royal couple who were known to decorate their palaces with blue and white Delftware, underscoring their love for gardening.
Now, after an intense search by Robert Aronson, fifth generation head of Aronson Antiquairs, the matching figure of Queen Mary’s royal consort has been discovered. A Delftware gentleman, dressed in similar relaxed style as the lady, and also wearing an exact same flower basket, has been found in a private collection in Paris. It will be shown for the first time in New York January 23 – February 1st at THE WINTER ANTIQUES SHOW (www.winterantiqueshow.com) at the Park Avenue (67th Street) Armory.
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.
“It’s hard to say for sure how long it has been since this large (42cm) pair of Royal figures was separated. But records show the male figure had been in the French collection until 1978, when the collector passed away, and hence by descent. Coincidentally, we learned that in about 1979 the figure of Her Majesty became part of a private collection in Antwerp. Not surprisingly, restoration reveals that both figures had been restored in the 1950‘s with exactly the same restoration materials, of English origin.”
William and Mary shared an interesting courtship and marriage. The bride was reluctant and cried throughout the ceremony when she married her first cousin, 12 years her senior and several inches shorter. But it was she who insisted they jointly rule after her father James II, who had become a Catholic, was forced into exile from Britain in 1689. The reign of William and Mary is best known for ending royal prerogative and establishing parliament’s absolute authority as well as for making Protestant succession the rule in England. William had battled tirelessly for that. The couple grew to respect each other during their marriage and by the time Willem died in 1702, eight years after Mary, it was said that a lock of her hair was found near his heart. Williamsburg, Virginia and The College of William and Mary are named for the monarchs.
Aronson says, “When you see the two figures alongside one another, there is no doubt the “bouquetières” were designed as a pair. The similarities are striking. Not only in the decoration of the gowns, but also the execution of the baskets, and the curls in their hair are in the same fashion. The male figure is marked AK, the signature for Adriaen Kocks, owner of the Greek A Factory from 1686 to 1701.
“There is also a striking similarity in the casual nature of their dress. He is wearing a so called ‘Japonse Rock’, or Japanese dressing gown in the shape of a kimono. Thus implying a more intimate environment, perhaps at the beginning or the end of the day, or in their private quarters when no official duties were scheduled. King Willem III is known to have had multiples of these very rare and extremely expensive dressing gowns, but he has never had an official portrait done in one, unlike other noblemen and women. Mary is also wearing a comfortable gown, elegantly knotted together at the back, showing the beautiful lining. This robe could be either a mantua or a kimono. The pleats at the back suggest a mantua, which became fashionable in the 17th century, first as leisure wear, before it became the rigid court dress. Both are wearing embroidered slippers with slightly square tips, as was fashionable at the end of the 17th century. Decorated slippers underline the indoor dress, since leather shoes were more frequently worn when outdoors.
“Together, the two figures seem remarkably at ease, with friendly expressions and both in a relaxed stance. Interesting is the fact that the counterpart of the lady “bouquetières” is a gentleman. There are very little, maybe even no known examples of male figures holding flowers. Ladies holding flowers are well known, and are often seen in decoration as pairs. A female-and-male set holding flowers is yet to be discovered. This could be proof, that this gentleman is Willem III indeed.
“No doubt The Greek A Factory were well aware of Mary’s passion for both gardening and blue and white oriental porcelain and it’s reasoned that this figure was a tribute to the Queen, who tragically died of small pox when she was just 32.
“Mary and William’s 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 Queen’s 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 furnish’d; 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 majesty’s 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 fill’d with this china, and every other place, where it could be plac’d, with advantage.” (ibid.)
For Robert Aronson, who this year celebrates his 25th anniversary at the 134 year old family firm, “This find is like a crowning achievement to me, a wonderful way to celebrate the joy any antiquair would experience reuniting two such interesting artworks. Who knows what the next quarter century will bring!”
A pair of Delft bouquetière figures, circa 1690. “This may be the only known figure of a gentleman holding flowers, and certainly the only male and female pairing.” – Robert Aronson. (Courtesy Aronson Antiquairs)
Detail of a c. 1690 Delft Bouquetiere Figure said to be Queen Mary II. (Courtesy Aronson Antiquairs)
Robert Aronson on arrival of King Willem III. (Courtesy Aronson Antiquairs)