The Japanese Palace was acquired by Augustus the Strong in 1717 and subsequently re-furnished as a palace for porcelain; a veritable tour de force of Asian porcelain collecting coupled with porcelain from his own factory, Meissen. The lavish interiors were also used for court festivities and represented an ideal model for a princely residence.
Plans show that the series of rooms were graded according to hierarchical importance, with the colour of porcelain within them chosen specifically to convey power, courtly ritual and subservience to the King. Depending on one's proximity to the throne in the palace, the colour grouping of ceramics varied. Annotated room plans and sketches by Augustus himself show how he designed the layout to compliment his rapidly expanding collection, and visitors to the palace followed a predetermined path through the series of antechambers which were laid out enfilade. For a discussion of this and the importance of colour in the palace, see Samuel Wittwer, The Gallery of Meissen Animals (Munich, 2006), p. 157.
A projected floor plan plan of 1730 indicates that 'Seladon Porcell' was to be placed in a corner room on the upper story of the building. The contemporary account by Johann Georg Keyssler on 23rd October 1730 confirms this: 'The rooms on the upper story, which is to be thirty-eight feet high, are to contain nothing other than Meissen porcelain...the second room is to contain many kinds of celadon-coloured porcelain with gilding, and the walls are to be fitted out with mirrors and other ornaments'.
These faceted bottle vases relate to a group of ninety-six 'display bottles', or 96 Aufsatz Bouteillen listed in the Japanese Palace inventory of 1734, see D. Hoffmeister, Meissener Porzellan des 18. Jahrhunderts Catalogue (Hamburg, 1999), Vol. II, p. 384. They were entered under N=291-W in the Palace inventory of 1770, Neun und Füfzig Stück diverse Aufsatz-Bouteillen, Celadon-Couleur mit weiben Feldern, darein kleine Blümgen und Zierrathen gemahlt, auch vergoldten Rändgen, No. 291 ('fifty-nine pieces of different display bottles, seladon colour with white reserves, small flowers and ornaments painted in them, also gilt borders, No. 291'). A 1736 Specification von Porcilan also notes Porcelains Seladon-Couluer mit weissen Feldern und mit schmalen golden Rändchen eigefasst, und mit wenig Malerei ('seladon colour with white reserves with narrow gold borders and a little decoration'), see Jean-Louis Sponsel, Kabinettstücke der Meissner Porzellan-Manufaktur von Joakim Kändler (Leipzig, 1900), p. 31. Fritz Fichter was the first to suggest that the ground colour used on the present bottles corresponds to the 'seladon' of the 1730 specification. Maureen Cassidy-Geiger, discusses the careful positioning of twelve Seladon bottle vases in the second floor gallery on each of the three display walls, see 'Meissen porcelain ordered for the Japanese Palace: A transcription of the Specification von Porcilan of 1736', Keramos, 153/1996, pp. 119-130.
Of the fifty-nine Seladon-ground vases recorded in 1770, the few that have made their way on to the open market have varied in shape and decoration. Of the bottle-shaped examples, lot 65 from the Property of a Noted European Collector, sold in these Rooms on 17 October 1977, is the closest in form with almost identically painted panels which is particularly unusual.
Two bottle vases, of slightly more slender form, were sold in these Rooms on 25 Feburary 1991, lots 171 and 172, the latter appeared again in these Rooms on 28 February 1991, lot 265 and is now in the Arnhold Collection, New York. The pair to lots 171 and 172 in the February 1991 sale were sold at Christie's Geneva on 10 November 1986, lots 146. The sake bottle form appears more frequently at auction, see Mr. and Mrs. Deane Johnson of Bel Air, California, sale Sotheby's Parke Bernet, New York, 9 December 1972, lot 35 (formerly from the Collection of the Baroness Renée de Becker, sold in New York in June 1958). See also the pair from a Noted European Collector, sold in these Rooms on 28 March 1977, lot 38, which are now in the Hoffmeister Collection, Hamburg. The two single vases from the same collection sold in Part II, 17 October 1977, lots 64 and 65 and a pair, also from the Renée de Becker Collection were sold by Christie's Geneva on 11 May 1987, lot 155. Subsequently a single square-section bottle-vase from this group was sold in these Rooms on 5 December 1994, lot 194 and was sold later at Christie's New York on 17-18 November 1999, lot 314. A pair of ormolu-mounted vases from the Lady Charlotte Schreiber Collection, Stansfield Park, Rowlands Castle, were sold by Sotheby's on 5 October 1999, lot 264. Most recently a pair of sake bottles bearing the same inventory number were sold in these Rooms on 11 December 2007, lot 53.
These vases were acquired by John Burton Philips and his wife Joanna during their travels on the Continent during the 1840s. Extensive works were carried out to rebuild and completely transform Old Heath House into a fashionable Gothic pile, tastefully decorated with the finest paintings, sculpture and decorative arts. Several items in their porcelain collection appear to have been acquired in Paris in 1842 and are noted in the contemporary inventory of the collection, known as The Little Red Book. John Cornforth discusses the house and the fine collection in his article 'The Heath House, Tean, Staffordshire - I & II', Country Life, 10 January, 1963.