A large and very rare Zuid Holland earthenware vase painted with a swirling bird-of-paradise on the front and stylised dragonflies on the back of the vase. The design is by Chris Lanooy (1881-1948), who worked at the Zuid Holland factory in 1902-1903 and left to work for Brantjes Purmerend in 1903. He designed this bird-of-paradise decoration during his time at Zuid Holland and had it executed at Brantjes again, about a year later.
Marked with the painted factory marks, incised mod. 226, P/b, and painters’ mark. High 66 cm.
During his time as a designer for Zuid-Holland, Brantjes and Haga, Chris Lanooy was inspired by Japanese woodblock prints and ceramics, which saw a rise in export to the West after Japan opened its borders. This vase, designed for Zuid-Holland, is an example of this Japanese influence in composition, use of color and design. The bird-of-paradise, which Lanooy reused as a motif in combination with poppies on a later design for Brantjes, is joined by several dragonflies.
Western collectors were especially fond of the Japanese kacho-e, a traditional style which combined realistic depictions of local birds with flowers and plants. Although Lanooy’s design for Brantjes shows more similarities with this style, the subdued colors and minimalistic depiction are reminiscent of kacho-e. The composition and the details of the bird are however more akin to depictions of the hou-ou or Japanese phoenix:
(Isoda Koryusai 1735-1790 ‘Phoenix and Paulownia Tree’- MFA Boston)
This motif, which was mainly used for the emperor and his family, was a metaphor for prosperity and a new beginning. Dragonflies had a similar connotation in Japan, but they were also a very popular motif in Art Nouveau because of their colors and elegance. The popularity of the dragonfly motif increased after the French translation of the Japanese ‘Poems of the Dragonfly’. Lanooy’s dragonflies are however more stylized than was customary in Art Nouveau, and resembles traditional Japanese depictions of the creature. Just like the Brantjes vase, this décor is a celebration of nature and its magical aspect of mythical creatures and metamorphoses.
(text & research: Lizzy Boel)