‘The idea is that the objects sit in the house and on furniture and float,’ says Edmund de Waal. Photograph: Sam Frost

They came from a studio in a less than glamorous part of south London between a Betfred, a takeaway and a car repair shop and are now in one of the most astonishingly opulent houses in England, nestling between Reynolds paintings, Sèvres porcelain and gilt furniture.

“It is kind of hilarious,” admitted the ceramic artist Edmund de Waal. “To leave Tulse Hill in a van and come here is in a way pure comedy.”

De Waal has created well over a thousand porcelain pots and installed them in the breathtaking interiors of Waddesdon, the grand Rothschild house near Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire.

The artist might be best known to some as the author of the internationally bestselling memoir The Hare with Amber Eyes, now translated into more than 18 languages. That book, which won the Costa biography award, saw the author using his inheritance of 264 Japanese netsuke from his great-uncle Iggie to trace the fortunes of his ancestors, the Ephrussis, one of the richest of Europe’s Jewish banking families.

There are many resonances between the book and the exhibition. “It would be mawkish to say it is the exhibition of the book,” said De Waal. “But it is the exhibition I could only do because I had written the book.”


Mark Brown