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A Japanese blue and white porcelain dish with initials ‘HP’

Arita, Edo period, circa 1660-1690


Diam. 23 cm

Initials bearing Arita bottles dating from about 1680 to 1710 are known, either indicating the name of a Dutch person or the bottle's content. Jan Veenendaal is researching these bottles and argues that initials with single or double dots in between stand for names of (high ranking) Dutch VOC officials, and those without any interrupting dots for the contents of the bottles. So for example I:V:H stands for Joan van Hoorn and I.C for Johannes Camphuys (both were Governor-General for the VOC). FW, without any dots, stands for Fransche Wijn (French wine), RW for Rijnlandsche Wijn and JOK probably for Jenever Oranda Kapitan (Gin for the Dutch Opperhoofd on Deshima). The only dishes with initials known so far are those with the VOC monogram in the centre, referring to the Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie.
Since there are no dots between the H and P, these initials presumably indicate the ‘content’ of the dish. Jan Veenendaal suggests HP stands for Hoender Pastei (chicken pastry), a popular dish in the Netherlands and on board the VOC ships. Petronella van Hoorn, sailing aboard the Sandenberg of the retourvloot (homeward bound fleet) from Batavia of 1709 commanded by her father Joan van Hoorn, wrote letters to her grandfather Willem van Outhoorn about life on board, including the meals served. She also wrote Mond Provisie Boek, a book of appetizing recipes eaten

by the higher-ranking officers on board VOC ships such as rolpens (spiced meat in tripe), sardines from Macassar, pickled fish, chicken, pumpkin with onions, green beans with fried bacon and sausages. Helena Swellengrebel described meals too. In her detailed diary of life on board of the retourvloot from the Cape of Good Hope, commanded by her father Hendrik Swellengrebel in 1750, she wrote down the meals eaten by the officers on board. This included stuffed goose, roasted pig and chicken pastry. The chicken pastry was a popular recipe in the Netherlands and is depicted in several ‘banketjes’, as 17th-century Dutch still life paintings used to be called.

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