This magnificent 17th-century Delft garden pot speaks volumes about the political and cultural climate in England and Europe under the reign of William III and Mary II. It was made just after the Glorious Revolution of 1688, when Catholic James II was deposed by his protestant daughter Mary and her Dutch husband William of Orange, ultimately establishing the supremacy of parliament over the British monarchy. Both were passionate garden makers and plant collectors, creating grand gardens at their palaces in Holland and importing these Dutch styles to England. Vast sums were spent filling hot houses with tropical plants, including over 120 exotics and citrus trees belonging to William’s advisor, Gasper Fagel, and acquired after his death for Hampton Court Palace. This grand pot was probably made to contain an orange tree. It is ornately decorated with scallop shells and cartouches, and the monarchs’ joint cipher ‘WMRR’ [Wilhelmus Maria Rex Regina] is strategically placed with the Stuart arms. Not just a grandiose garden pot then, but a luxury object legitimising the foreign invasion of England by another European power.
Garden pot. A Dutch Delft garden pot. The massive, blue and white, earthenware orange-tree pot, of campana form, has fixed ring 'handles' moulded to the sides. It is painted with the royal arms of William III, enclosed by the garter and surmounted by the crown moulded in relief. The reverse has the WM monogram for William and Mary within floral cartouches. The lower part is painted with beaded false gadroons. Below this, there are four moulded legs with shell and scroll upper parts and paw feet, and also four scallop shells in relief. The detachable, flared neck is waved, fluted and painted with shells. The base is circular, and there is a blue AK mark for the Greek 'A' factory.
Given by Philip Yorke III (1905-1978) along with the estate, house and contents to the National Trust in 1973.
Marks and inscriptions
On foot rim: 'AK' [monogram in manganese black on the foot rim]
Ceramics: 400 Years of British Collecting in 100 Masterpieces, Philip Wilson Publishers, 2016, pp. 46-7