While not one of the four commissioned designs by Cornelis Pronk for the Dutch East India Co. this magnificent basin clearly belongs with his oeuvre by virtue of both pattern and form. Its shape is identical to that of a number of large Pronk basins known in the literature and saleroom history. Its distinctive borders relate closely to those on a number of well-documented Pronk pieces. Those on its rim are identical to borders on the large Archer jar and cover and the Handwashing jar and cover in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (C.J.A. Jörg, Catalogue, no. 51 and no. 10.). Most likely this design was a private commission undertaken by Pronk for a V.O.C. director or investor.
The birds and marshy grasses seen on this basin are highly reminiscent of those found as details in the Dame au Parasol, Handwashing and Doctor's Visit patterns. It has been suggested that this subject may represent an Aesop's or La Fontaine fable, subjects that were also popular at Meissen, as were the Parrot on a Perch and the Pekinese and the Parrot often associated by taste with this group.
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". (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 large Chinese Imari Handwashing cistern and cover from the collection of Benjamin F. Edwards III was sold Christie's, New York, 22 January 2003, lot 101. A nearly identical basin to the present lot, but in blue and white, sold Christie's, London, 15 June 1999, lot 211.