When Dutch merchants sailed to the coasts of Asia at the end of the 16th century they created a demand for undiscovered merchandise. These were mainly luxurious goods one had never seen before, such as silk, porcelain, lacquer work, printed textiles and tea.
These luxury goods created a sensation amongst the elite who at first could only afford them. The rapid development of the supply chain however reached such proportions that others were able to purchase them and enhance their status.
The import of Chinese and Asian goods greatly influenced Dutch art and culture in the 17th century and Amsterdam served as its epicenter.
Pottery makers, in Delft, furniture makers and textile workers were inspired by this exotic luxury.
Chinese porcelain came to be known in The Netherlands at the end of the 16th century. It was greatly acclaimed for its technical perfection, its toughness, its light weight and exotic decoration, compared with local production.
Chinese porcelain attracted a wide variety of buyers when prices suddenly plummeted. The Dutch East India Company generally imported low quality porcelain and was intent on keeping prices low, however they and private Dutch traders endured to be able to import exclusive items of superior quality. Large dishes in the second half of the 17th century were the most expensive.
The Dutch were proud owners of large quantities of porcelain dishes and bowls and used them as a decorative element in their homes. The tops of freestanding cupboards and cabinets were popular places for displaying large pieces. Later in the 17th century it became customary to display groups of similarly shaped decorated jugs with lids and vases, known as garniture sets, or “kaststel”, a cupboard set.
When the French interior architect Daniel Marot arrived at the court of Stadhouder Willem III and his English wife Mary Stuart, the display of vases changed dramatically. In Marot’s designs porcelain became a component of the decorative theme of an interior. Band-work decoration with spiral scrolls filling a section of a wall determined the location of consoles intended for the display of porcelain rendering a vase or piece of porcelain to a secondary status.
The late 17th century and early 18th centuries saw the Golden Age of miniature porcelain. “Poppe-goed” or dolls-house-ware became fashionable with miniature vases, jars and bowls, the supply of which eventually saturated the market.