Figure of a Merchant with a crate marked caffee thumbnail 1
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Request to view at the Prints & Drawings Study Room, level D , Case SC, Shelf 45

Figure of a Merchant with a crate marked caffee

Watercolour
ca. 1780 (painted)
Artist/Maker

This watercolour may be a design for an illustration, or some kind of trade card or even a painted sign for advertising. In the minds of early consumers, coffee was inevitably linked pictorially with its Ottoman origins. This image of the trader may be derived from a costume study of a Smyrna [modern Izmir] merchant. The crate of coffee has the merchant’s mark on the side, as well as the number 100, presumably a hundredweight.

Coffee, once a local drink made from the roasted berries of plants found in Yemen, has now permeated almost the entire world. The history of its early use is shrouded in legend, but it was supposed to have been used by dervishes to help their meditations. Beans exported from Mocha on the Arabian coast arrived in Istanbul in 1543. The Sultans were not sure at first what to do about the stimulating drink, (as it is not mentioned in the Quran) and tried to ban it for a while. They had the same difficulty with tobacco, which arrived in 1601.

Turkey merchants brought the habit of coffee drinking back to Europe, and coffee houses had opened in Oxford and London by the mid 1650s. A merchant called Pasqua Rosee from Izmir, who had seen Turkish coffee houses first hand, opened one of the first `at the sign of his own head’ near Cornhill in the City of London. Introduced by merchants, the coffee houses became fashionable places for merchants to meet, and provided a milieu for a new culture of business and political debate, allied with the introduction of modern banking and insurance systems. Although the early coffee houses of Britain seemed to have had plain interiors, unlike their elaborately decorated counterparts in Turkey, there were some symbolic references to their origin. The waiters sometimes wore turbans, and the painted sign outside was often that of the head of a Sultan. By the nineteenth century it is alleged that up to 57 different “Turk’s Head” signs could be found on coffee houses in London.


object details
Category
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Pen and ink and watercolour, over pencil
Brief Description
Watercolour, Figure of a Merchant with a crate marked `caffee', about 1780. Artist unknown
Dimensions
  • Height: 10.2cm
  • Width: 10.5cm
Styles
Credit line
Purchased with the assistance of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, Art Fund, Shell International and the Friends of the V&A
Subjects depicted
Place Depicted
Summary
This watercolour may be a design for an illustration, or some kind of trade card or even a painted sign for advertising. In the minds of early consumers, coffee was inevitably linked pictorially with its Ottoman origins. This image of the trader may be derived from a costume study of a Smyrna [modern Izmir] merchant. The crate of coffee has the merchant’s mark on the side, as well as the number 100, presumably a hundredweight.



Coffee, once a local drink made from the roasted berries of plants found in Yemen, has now permeated almost the entire world. The history of its early use is shrouded in legend, but it was supposed to have been used by dervishes to help their meditations. Beans exported from Mocha on the Arabian coast arrived in Istanbul in 1543. The Sultans were not sure at first what to do about the stimulating drink, (as it is not mentioned in the Quran) and tried to ban it for a while. They had the same difficulty with tobacco, which arrived in 1601.



Turkey merchants brought the habit of coffee drinking back to Europe, and coffee houses had opened in Oxford and London by the mid 1650s. A merchant called Pasqua Rosee from Izmir, who had seen Turkish coffee houses first hand, opened one of the first `at the sign of his own head’ near Cornhill in the City of London. Introduced by merchants, the coffee houses became fashionable places for merchants to meet, and provided a milieu for a new culture of business and political debate, allied with the introduction of modern banking and insurance systems. Although the early coffee houses of Britain seemed to have had plain interiors, unlike their elaborately decorated counterparts in Turkey, there were some symbolic references to their origin. The waiters sometimes wore turbans, and the painted sign outside was often that of the head of a Sultan. By the nineteenth century it is alleged that up to 57 different “Turk’s Head” signs could be found on coffee houses in London.
Collection
Accession Number
SD.1307

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record createdMay 13, 2008
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