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The unusual “bouquetière” was attributed to The Greek A Factory, where many of the most important Delft flowerpots and tulip vases were ordered by the Royal couple who were known to decorate their palaces with blue and white Delftware, underscoring their love for gardening.

AMSTERDAM.- The Gemeentemuseum in The Hague has acquired a unique pair of circa 1690 Royal Delft figures of King William III and Queen Mary II that had been separated for more than 40 years, from the Aronson Antiquairs gallery in Amsterdam. They will go on view in their native Netherlands next month. The figures had been displayed at the Aronson stand at The Winter Antiques Show in January in New York.

According to Robert Aronson, fifth generation proprietor of the world’s leading dealers in antique Delft, “We are thrilled to have this extraordinary pair of Royal Delft figures remain in The Netherlands. Queen Mary and King William were joint rulers of Holland and Britain at the end of the 17th century during what became known as the “Glorious Revolution.” The Queen was regarded as “The Patron Saint of Dutch Delft” and her collections were prominently displayed in each of her residences - Hampton Court, Kensington Palace and Paleis Het Loo in Apeldoorn.” 

The story behind the reuniting of these two Royal Delft figures is fascinating as the pair had inexplicably been separated four decades ago. 

Robert Aronson showed the Queen Mary figure at The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF) in Maastricht in March, 2014, having obtained it after it had passed through collections in Brussels and Antwerp. In May, Aronson found out about a similarly-clad male figure being offered at a French auction house as property of a French family in the chocolate trade. He sent an emissary to acquire it and was amazed when he first set eyes on the figure. 

The resemblance of the figure to Queen Mary was uncanny- both were clad in flowered robes and striped slippers and each clutches a flower basket. That was highly unusual as we don’t know of male figures in Delft seen holding flowers. When you see the two figures alongside one another, there is no doubt the large (42cm high) “bouquetières” were designed as a pair. Not only in the decoration of the gowns, but also the execution of the baskets, and the curls in their hair are in the same fashion. The male figure is marked AK, the signature for Adriaen Kocks, owner of the Greek A Factory from 1686 to 1701, one of the most esteemed Delft makers.” 

Aronson conducted exhaustive research to document his finds. 

The family appears to have acquired the pair in the 1870s and evidence showed that the pair had been similarly restored around 1950. For some reason the figure of Queen Mary was sold in the 1970s

Most antiques dealers can only dare to dream about an experience like this – finding and uniting two historic figural artworks separated for decades and, in this case, masterworks in Delft. The fact that the discovery came in a single year, on my 25th anniversary in the business, is a crowning achievement I will always treasure.” 

The Aronson family has had a long relationship with the Gemeentemuseum, who are known for exhibiting the finest examples of Delftware in the world. Aronson Antiquairs were sponsors of the recent Gemeentemuseum show of antique Delft titled “Delftware WonderWare.” Robert Aronson is on the Executive Board of TEFAF and serves as chairman of the Royal Dutch Antique Dealers Association. He is a principal sponsor of the DelftAardewerk.nl web site which is in the process of being translated to English and will be published under DutchDelftware.com 

Benno Tempel, the Gemeentemuseum director, first saw the pair of Delft figures several weeks before Aronson shipped the figures to New York for The Winter Antiques Show. He immediately began the process to keep the figures in The Netherlands. Happily he was able to secure support for the acquisition, whose purchase price is not being disclosed. The pair had been offered for $950,000 USD in New York. Aronson says the museum received a generous discount.

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A pair of Delft bouquetière figures, circa 1690.  “This may be the only known figure of a gentleman holding flowers, and certainly the only male and female pairing.” – Robert Aronson. (Courtesy Aronson Antiquairs)