Monday, November 07, 2016
Garnitures: Vase Sets from National Trust Houses
The Victoria & Albert Museum recently debuted a new exhibition that is right up our alley: Garnitures: Vase Sets from National Trust Houses. Garnitures, which are matching sets of vases and vessels, came into fashion in the seventeenth century, when upper-class Europeans began fervently collecting and amassing Chinese porcelain. Typically displayed on mantelpieces, on tops of cabinets and chests, or over doorways, garnitures are usually comprised of odd-numbered pieces, which, when displayed, create a pleasing sense of symmetry.
Although garnitures fell out of favor by the Victorian era, many porcelain collectors, aesthetes, and decorators continued to garnish their interiors with these ceramic sets. (By the way, the term "garniture" is derived from "garnir", which is the French word for garnish.) Still today, you can find garnitures employed by the likes of Carolyne Roehm, Alex Papachristidis, and Andrew Gn, whose uses of garnitures can be seen below.
But back to the V&A exhibit. There, you'll find all kinds of wonderful examples of garnitures from such National Trust Houses as Dunham Massey, Tatton Park, and Kingston Lacy, where the three-piece garniture seen above can be found. Accompanying the exhibit is a book which provides an overview of both the exhibition and the history of garnitures. In the U.K., the book is titled Garnitures. In the U.S., however, the book's title is Vase Mania. Although the U.S. title has a bit more zest, I can't help but wonder if it was dumbed down for the American audience. Perhaps I'll leave that conversation for another day.
Some examples of vase mania, which bear no relation to the V&A exhibit: