Garnitures of three, five, seven and occasionally more, vases of two complementary shapes were very popular from the late 17th century until the middle of the next century. They were placed on a mantle shelf above a fireplace when they were known as a garniture-de-cheminée, but were also placed within the fireplace during the summer, on wall brackets and on pieces of furniture, the number in a garniture depending on the decorative effect required; see D. S. Howard, The Choice of the Private Trader, London, 1994, p. 236, for a discussion on garnitures.
However, a famille verte garniture of this size and form, and more importantly with all pieces having original covers, is extremely rare. The beaker vases in the majority of garnitures of the 17th and 18th centuries were normally made without covers, as evidenced by the glazed rims. The beakers in the present lot have unglazed rims with a slight ledge so that the covers can be placed on safely. The presence of the original covers for all three vases in this lot is not only rare but also extremely desirable.
The majority of jars in 17th/18th century garnitures are of baluster form, occasionally inverted, and the beakers follow the archaistic gu-shape with central bulbous sections. A pair of famille verte oviform jars of the form and size of the jar in the present lot, and decorated with an almost identical scene, was sold in these Rooms 28 November 1966, lot 82 (without covers); another pair, with covers, sold Sotheby's London, 3 July 1973, lot 161; and an ormolu-mounted pair, with covers, sold in these Rooms, 9 July 2009, lot 155.
A garniture of three Kangxi blue and white vases of this unusual form, with covers, but of considerably smaller size, was in the Richard Bennett Collection, Catalogue of the Collection of Old Chinese Porcelains, London, n.d., no. 38 (colour plate). A Kangxi famille verte jar and cover, from the Johanneum Palace, Dresden, which is of similar size to the present lot, but decorated with mythical beasts, is illustrated by Walter Bondy, Kang-hsi, Munich, 1923, p. 143; and for a blue and white jar and cover of the same period, size and form, see ibid., p. 113. Another blue and white example is illustrated by Oskar Münsterberg, Chinesische Kunstgeschichte, Esslingen, 1912, fig. 437, p. 306.