Like so many forms in export porcelain, five-piece garnitures derive from a purely Chinese archetype. Chinese altar garnitures, made for use in both temples and homes (and metalwork as often as ceramic), were by long tradition comprised of a central incense burner flanked by a pair of pricket candlesticks and a pair of beaker vases. Western traders adopted this general scheme for a purely decorative, non-religious purpose. As A. du Boulay states in Christie's Pictorial History of Chinese Ceramics 'The sets of five were the ideal number for the European chimneypiece or the large Dutch cupboard.' A set of this grand scale was obviously intended for a very important house, where they may have stood on the floor of the hall or in front of the fireplace in summer as easily as on top of a sideboard or massive bookcase. Another blue and white garniture of this massive size was sold in our New York Rooms, 23 January 2001, lot 13.