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Tea canister

  • Place of origin:

    Bristol (probably, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1750-1760 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Tin-glazed earthenware, painted in blue, with replacement metal cover

  • Credit Line:

    Mellor Bequest

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 52b, case 1

Object Type
Tea canisters, called caddies today, were containers for storing tea leaves. During the 18th century, tea was made in front of the family and guests in well-off households, not in the kitchen. Like other tea utensils, canisters are therefore often highly decorative. Initially an expensive luxury confined to the wealthy, tea became more widely drunk as prices fell during the 18th century. This gradual fall (hastened when import duties were drastically reduced in 1784) was reflected in the increasing size of these containers over the course of the century.

The single most important influence on the decoration of English delftware was East Asian porcelain. From the early 17th century to the very end of the 18th, a succession of Chinese and Japanese painting styles and motifs were adopted by potters in England. Imports of Chinese porcelain during the 17th century provided prototypes that were copied more or less faithfully. But from around 1680, an English Chinoiserie style began to emerge, with pottery painters inventing their own simplifications, abstractions and patterns. As is the case with this tea canister, Chinese scenes and motifs were frequently combined with European ones without any sense of incongruity.

Physical description

Foliate decoration on the top and comparable ornament on the sides alternating with scenes showing figures. On the long sides a couple seated at table and three oriental figures walking in a landscape. On the short sides standing figures, one with a jug beneath a looped up curtain, the other walking in a landscape. All the decoration is in blue. The canister has a silver-coloured lid.
Body colour: Reddish.
Glaze: White. Underside unglazed.
Shape: Flat underside. (Alphabetic shape codes as used in appendix to Archer. Delftware. 1997)

Place of Origin

Bristol (probably, made)


ca. 1750-1760 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Tin-glazed earthenware, painted in blue, with replacement metal cover


Height: 9.1 cm with lid, Width: 7.9 cm

Descriptive line

Figures and foliage

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Archer, Michael. Delftware: the tin-glazed earthenware of the British Isles. A catalogue of the collection in the Victoria and Albert Museum. London: HMSO, in association with the Victoria and Albert Museum, 1997. ISBN 0 11 290499 8

Labels and date

British Galleries:
Decorations inspired by Chinese ceramics were often used to decorate tea canisters. [27/03/2003]



Subjects depicted

Foliation (pattern); Landscape; Figures


Delftware; Ceramics; Tea, Coffee & Chocolate wares; Drinking; British Galleries


Ceramics Collection

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