A rare four piece white garniture with a coat of arms of double-headed eagle

A rare four piece white garniture with a coat of arms of double-headed eagle

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Aangeboden door Daatselaar Fine Art & Antiques

A rare four piece white garniture with a coat of arms of double-headed eagle A rare four piece white garniture with a coat of arms of double-headed eagle

The coat of arms on the garniture would have to be that of Nijmegen, which can described as follows: “Or (gold), a double eagle sable (black), over all an inescutcheon azure (blue) charged with a double-queued crowned lion rampant or (gold), langued and armed gules (red). The escutcheon (shield) surmounted by an imperial crown or (gold), lined gules (red) and supported by (dexter) a lion rampant or (gold) and (sinister) a lion rampant sable (black), langued and armed gules (red). The whole is placed on an arabesque.” These arms, which have been born by the city of Nijmegen - one of the oldest cities of the Netherlands, known during the Roman empire as “Ulpia Noviomagus Batavorum” - for many centuries, was formally registered by the High Council of Nobility (“Hoge Raad van Adel”) of the Netherlands on 20 July 1816.

However, on the garniture, the supporters (tenants) holding the shield of Nijmegen are lions rampant “guardant” (also known as “affronté”) - they look to the beholder -, a version of the city arms before 1816. A similar depiction of the coat of arms of Nijmegen can still be seen on the city weigh-house (“Stadswaag”) dated 1612, It is remarkable as well that on the garniture, behind the heads of the double imperial eagle, two “nimbi” (halos) are depicted, a detail of this eagle which hasn’t been registered in 1816 either.

The double eagle (“nimbierter Doppeladler” in German) of the Holy Roman Empire and the imperial crown surmounting the shield are reminders of the fact that since 1230, the city of Nijmegen was a so-called “vrije rijksstad” or “free imperial town”; Nijmegen is the only town in the Northern Netherlands on which such an honour has been bestowed. In 1247, William II, Holy Roman King, pawned Nijmegen to Count Otto II of Gelre (Guelders). Eversince, the imperial eagle has been charged with an inescutcheon bearing the arms of Gelre. The lions supporting the shield are those of Gelre (the golden lion) and Gulik or Jülich (the black lion): since 1377, the Dukes of Gelre (in 1339, the Counts were raised to Dukes) were Dukes of Gulik as well. Already in 1572, the imperial crown surmounted the coat of arms of Nijmegen.

This garniture might have been ordered by an inhabitant, an official or perhaps even the government of the city of Nijmegen. Any way, this garniture has been the property of a renowned patrician Dutch family and it is interesting to note that the grandfather of the former owner was an important municipal official in Nijmegen in the 1870s. An ancestor of him lived in Nijmegen upon his death in 1826.

As said, the heraldic lion on the inescutcheon is rather ineptly and inaccurately depicted, as if the painter wasn’t familiar with the phenomenon of a heraldic lion. Therefore, the garniture might be of Chinese origin: many a time, Chinese craftsmen weren’t familiar with heraldry and European (heraldic) figures. For the decoration of porcelain after a European design, they often used to work after an example on paper (a drawing or engraving). Possibly, the heraldic lion was a rather bizarre creature in the eyes of Chinese craftsmen and perhaps, the lion in the small inescutcheon wasn’t distinct enough - contrary to the (much larger) lions supporting the shield. Regarding the armorial paintings on Chinese porcelain, specialist Dr Jochem Kroes wrote the following:

“To ensure the coat of arms was painted correctly, the commissioner had to send an example to China. In Britain many commissioners sent a bookplate, others used drawings (...). In the Netherlands, however, there is much less evidence of armorial models being used for Chinese porcelain. The first known model was for a special order for a cupboard garniture, and is a drawing with the coat of arms of Friedrich III (1657-1713), King of Prussia from 1701, sent to China by the VOC in 1706. Other armorial drawings have not survived, but there are other objects which were probably used as a model for copying arms on porcelain, including engravings, portraits, seals and a warrant. (...) In general, the Chinese painters showed great skill in decorating porcelain with armorial and other European designs. This was especially so from the 1730s; before that, several services had less meticulously painted coats of arms (...). On the other hand, despite the accomplishment of the Chinese painters, the armorial design and figures on porcelain could be quite inaccurate with mistakes and deviations from the original model in several cases. The question is whether these models were incorrect or whether the painting was carelessly done. The first case of inaccurate heraldry on porcelain is that of armorial charges painted in reverse (...). A second type of error concerns minor differences in the arms (...). Not only armorial figures but also crests were painted incorrectly, in most cases probably due to inaccurate models. (...) Finally, sketchy armorial painting is characteristic of quite a few Dutch armorial services. This probably has nothing to do with the wrong models, but rather lack of interest by the Chinese painter, possibly because the Dutch, being frugal people, didn’t pay enough as far as the Chinese artists were concerned.” (Dr Jochem Kroes, Chinese armorial porcelain for the Dutch market (2007), p. 77; 79-80.)

Usually, coats of arms depicted on porcelain from (for example) Meissen, Berlin or Sèvres - therefore painted by European craftsmen - are more correct (from a heraldic point of view) than those on Chinese porcelain. After all, these local painters were familiar with the phenomenon heraldry and with the various figures and symbols used in heraldry.

The identification of the arms as those of Nijmegen - despite the inaccurate heraldic lion on the inescutcheon - has been acknowledged by Mr Otto Schutte, former Secretary General of the High Council of Nobility.


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Daatselaar Fine Art & Antiques

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