‘I’m not an expert on Chinese porcelain, but I love blue and white. I bought these three objects — two sprinklers and a vase — as a single lot. I spotted them in the catalogue and thought they looked like a bit of fun. I was assuming they were much larger, because I didn’t really look at the description properly. So when I saw them at auction I thought: my God, they are tiny. But that made them even more appealing to me, because they are so sweet.
‘I just like the shapes of them, and the fact that they don’t obviously belong with each other. I prefer things to be eclectic; I am not keen on obvious symmetry. These date to the Kangxi period of the Qing dynasty — the 17th century — which in European art was the bold baroque period.
‘I am more interested in the sprinklers than the vase; I assume they would have been filled with rosewater. If they were used for perfuming a room in China, how did this happen? At what point would they have been brought out? At the door when guests arrived, or when they sat down? Maybe somebody knows these things, but I don’t want to go into it too deeply. I feel it is more interesting to keep the possibilities floating. But I like the ritual of welcome that the sprinklers imply.
‘They have clearly been used, and that makes me happy. There is a bit of history that comes with them — though goodness knows what stories they have, or who they served. Since I’m keeping them for myself, it doesn’t matter that they are damaged. I like worn-out things. If I buy a carpet or a textile, I want it to look its age.
‘We have objects like these sprinklers in the Middle East, too. Chinese things would come along the Silk Road to Iran, where craftsmen would make their own versions. And so you get this same sort of leafy design on 18th-century Persian ware. That process fascinates me, because it is not as if a photograph was distributed to 200 artists who then studied it. It can only be that a couple of objects from a caravan found their way to some potter, and the idea spread slowly from him. I’m not a scholar and I don’t know how that would have happened, but someone should write a book about it.’