Around 1735, the Dutch East-India Company planned to revive the trade in porcelain and commissioned the Dutch draftsman Cornelis Pronk (1691-1759) to produce designs to be transferred onto Chinese porcelain, which they hoped would be more successful than the Chinese designs and which would appeal to the European taste. However, due to the expense of transferring the design onto porcelain, the volume of Pronk's work is small, and his designs ceased in 1738 since they were not considered profitable. Two watercolours by Pronk of his designs 'The Doctor's Visit' (1735) and 'La Dame au Parasol' (1734) are in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. According to records, only these two orders were believed to have been placed: the first was carried to the Netherlands on the Hogersmilde at the end of 1738, followed by the second order the next year. There are several other designs attributed to Pronk on stylistic grounds, including 'The Arbour', 'The Handwashing', 'The Archer', 'The Violet Plume', 'The Flame Dancer' and 'The Phoenix'. The cistern is decorated with the design commonly referred to as 'The Archer'. This design is known on a small group of vessels including urns and basins in different sizes decorated in coloured enamels or in underglaze blue and gilt.
Dr. C. Jörg reports that in total sixty sets of large vases and basins were shipped from China to the Netherlands in the period 1737-40, and quotes the Company report that "many and in fact most of the oval water basins for the vases cracked and ruptured in the firing". See C.J.A. Jörg, Porcelain and the Dutch China Trade, p. 190. Not only were they fragile, they also bore an "excessively high price" of "220 guilders on average" per set. This when a dinner service of 102 pieces cost 90 guilders in blue and white and 115 in enamels (op. cit. p. 171).
A cistern with the same design is in the collection of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. See C.J.A. Jörg in collaboration with Jan van Campen, Chinese Ceramics in the Collection of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Amsterdam, 1997, p. 285, ill. 331. See also C.J.A. Jörg, Pronk Porcelain, 1980, no. 52; D.F. Lunsingh Scheurleer, Chine de Commande, 1974, no. 132; and D. Howard and J. Ayers, China for the West, p. 294-295.
A similar cistern and cover was sold in these rooms, 13 May 1998, lot 200.