'China ware ..very fit to furnish Escutores, Cabinets, Corner Cupboards or Sprigs [branched brackets], where it usually stands for ornament only', announced a late 17th century trade advertisement. 'For use and ornament' was to become a popular phrase amongst East India merchants. Indeed the polychromed vases and lidded 'potices' introduced at this period were often referred to as 'coloured shew pots'. Amongst the most highly prized of such pure white porcelain vases, executed in the Arita kilns and richly polychromed in translucent jewel-like enamels in the Kakiemon manner, were those of hexagonal 'six squares' form, now termed the 'Hampton Court' pattern in honour of Queen Mary II, (d. 1694). Following the succession of William III and Mary to the English throne in 1689, the Queen furnished her apartments with an exuberance of china ware, particularly at her Thames-side banqueting pavilion at Hampton Court, known as the 'Water Gallery'. Here, according to Daniel Defoe, the Queen's gallery was hung with portraits of the 'Principal Ladies attending upon her Majesty' and furnished with a 'vast stock of fine china ware, the like whereof was not then to be seen in England; the long Gallery, as above, was fill'd with this China, and every Place, where it could be placed, with advantage..'
The reasons for the name "Hampton Court vases" are somewhat
convoluted. There is, at Hampton Court, at least one pair of such jars; there are also others in other royal palaces. One pair of these was
exhibited at the British Museum in Porcelain for Palaces, another pair at the Ashmolean Museum in the exhibition Flowers of Fire, Kakiemon Porcelain from the English Country House. In 1949 Arthur Lane suggested that the jars at Hampton Court derived from the celebrated collection of Queen Mary II, though he did not identify them with descriptions in the inventory of Kensington House (Palace) taken
after Queen Mary's death, on 24 March 1696/7. Attempts have been made to link the existing jars at Hampton Court with this inventory; there
was, in the Old Bedchamber, "one coloured jarr of six squares" which
because of its position in the room is likely to have been the pair to "one jarr & cover of six squares"; there was also "one coloured jarr & cover of six squares" over the chimney. These pieces cannot be those
at Hampton Court, even supposing that two were a pair, as all the
porcelain then at Kensington House was given to the 1st Earl of Albermarle in 1699.
The 1697 and 1699 inventories of Kensington Palace drawn up by William III's valet de chambre list the display of almost a thousand pieces of porcelain and Delft. If the tradition that the Queen's collection
of porcelain was presented to Arnold Joost van Keepel in 1694, is
correct, then the items listed must have belonged to William. However, it is possible that Albermarle merely acquired the items from the
Queen's apartment where she died, which may account for the survival of one hundred pieces of Chinese and Japanese porcelain, traditionally
associated with her, remaining at Hampton Court. These include
Kakiemon and Kakiemon-related pieces, such as the six-sided large
covered jars and four-sided pear-shaped bottles. Eleven rooms at
Kensington contained porcelain. There were 193 pieces in one
bedchamber, arranged in pyramidical schemes above the doors, including "One jarr and cover of six squares" probably a faceted jar of the
Hampton Court type, "two five-corner deep saucers of coloured China",
probably a five-sided dish decorated in Kakiemon colours, "one small
ribbed bason of white, green and blew" and "one small ribbed bason of
white with branches of red, green and blew" and "basons of eight square each with branches and burds on them of red, green and blew" (these
could be octagonal bowls). Kakiemon pieces were probably featured in the arrangements in the "Gardin Room", in which "india stone" pieces (probably jade, jasper or chalcedony), celadon pieces (called "ollive" in the Inventory), and basins, teacups and teapots of indeterminate colour - a total of 143 pieces - were massed on corner shelves and placed on a cabinet. Possible Kakiemon pieces in this room were "one jarr & cover and one small bason with flowers of green & red", "one flask of white red green" and "one long tea pott with branches of red and green". Perhaps the most striking arrangement of all was in the "Ante Room". Thirty-eight pieces were arranged "over the chimney on six shelves". "White platt(s) with red & green branches" were placed in the centre of each shelf and were flanked by blue and white plates that were "of a sorte" or identical. The seven plates on the fourth shelf were "all of a sorte whith branches of several colours", so that the polychrome plates formed a cross-shaped arrangement among the blue and white ones. Clearly, Queen Mary wanted to display her Kakiemon pieces in an arrangement designed to contrast their exotic colouring with the more familiar blue and white pieces. "On the topp row two basons of eight square, each with branches & burds on them of red, green and blew". "one small roll waggon, two tea potts cutt in fine india stone both of a sorte, and two gotes of purple green & white china". The small rollwagen could have been only 7" high, while the "india stone tea potts" were probably jade or of another exotic hardstone and were probably tiny, and the goats were probably small Delft figures. A "coloured jarr & cover of six squares" was also featured in an arrangement "over the chimney" "on topp row". With "two lyons with
figures on them" (probably blanc-de-chine) flanking the jar. Also present in this overmantel arrangement were "two flasks of six square each", probably Kakiemon bottles. They were placed on the fifth shelf among various coloured pieces, including "little purple cups" and "white figures".
A similar example is illustrated Development of Kakiemon Type Enamelled Porcelain, Tokyo National Museum, March 1979, pl. 55.
John Hardy and Linda Shulsky.