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Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
British Galleries, Room 52b

Tea Tray

1743 (dated)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Object Type
Tea trays were used to carry the teapot and other utensils to the table. During the 18th century tea was made in front of family and guests in well-off households, rather than in the kitchen. Initially an expensive luxury confined to the wealthy, tea became more widely drunk as prices fell during the course of the century. Very few delftware tea trays survive. The shape of this tray is based on silver examples made between about 1710 and 1730. A tray of the same shape is shown in the tea-party scene painted on the tray itself. A teapot and tea bowls are depicted on the tray, while a black servant boy can be seen bringing a kettle of hot water to the table.

Techniques
Items of tin-glazed earthenware, such as this tea tray, were fired twice. The first firing was done before any decoration or glaze was applied. The wares emerged from this 'biscuit' firing in a hard and slightly porous state. The pots were then dipped in glaze and set on boards to dry. The raw glaze was delicate and liable to come off, and once dry had a powdery and highly absorbent surface. Painting of considerable refinement could be carried out on this surface, as is demonstrated by the exquisite painted scene on this tray. However, the absorbent nature of the unfired glaze meant that mistakes could not be erased. Once the decoration was complete the wares were fired for a second time.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Tin-glazed earthenware, painted in cobalt blue
Brief Description
Tea tray of tin-glazed earthenware, painted in blue with a tea-party in an interior and an inscription, probably London, dated 1743
Physical Description
Tea tray of tin-glazed earthenware. A tea-party in an interior with a foliate and scroll border and a key pattern on the low up-stand around the edge. With the inscription: 17- : E + A : -43. All the decoration is in blue.

Body colour: Buff.

Glaze: Greyish white, lumpy and pooling on the back, much crazed on both sides. The bases of the feet have been wiped clean of glaze.

Shape: The underside is flat with seven bun feet (two missing).
Dimensions
  • Diameter: 35.5cm
Dimensions checked: Registered Description; 01/01/1997 by KN
Marks and Inscriptions
'17-:E + A:-43' (Inscribed on front)
Gallery Label
British Galleries: Although the design of this tea tray is based on silver examples of about 1710-1730, its decoration makes it unique. The scene was almost certainly inspired by a contemporary print. This shows the lady of the house serving tea from a tray of this type.(27/03/2003)
Credit line
Transferred from the Museum of Practical Geology, Jermyn Street
Object history
Acquired by the Museum of Practical Geology between 1871 and 1876.

Exhibited: Rijksmuseum, No: 105.
Summary
Object Type
Tea trays were used to carry the teapot and other utensils to the table. During the 18th century tea was made in front of family and guests in well-off households, rather than in the kitchen. Initially an expensive luxury confined to the wealthy, tea became more widely drunk as prices fell during the course of the century. Very few delftware tea trays survive. The shape of this tray is based on silver examples made between about 1710 and 1730. A tray of the same shape is shown in the tea-party scene painted on the tray itself. A teapot and tea bowls are depicted on the tray, while a black servant boy can be seen bringing a kettle of hot water to the table.

Techniques
Items of tin-glazed earthenware, such as this tea tray, were fired twice. The first firing was done before any decoration or glaze was applied. The wares emerged from this 'biscuit' firing in a hard and slightly porous state. The pots were then dipped in glaze and set on boards to dry. The raw glaze was delicate and liable to come off, and once dry had a powdery and highly absorbent surface. Painting of considerable refinement could be carried out on this surface, as is demonstrated by the exquisite painted scene on this tray. However, the absorbent nature of the unfired glaze meant that mistakes could not be erased. Once the decoration was complete the wares were fired for a second time.
Bibliographic References
  • 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
  • M.P.G. 1876, Y. 37. Rackham and Read, Fig: 114. Honey, p.45. Garner, p.28 and Pl: 54. Garner and Archer, pp.32, 40 and Pl: 74. Lipski and Archer, No: 1558.
  • Hildyard, Robin. European Ceramics. London : V&A Publications, 1999. 144 p., ill. ISBN 185177260X
Other Number
G28. - <u>Delftware</u> (1997) cat. no.
Collection
Accession Number
3864-1901

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record createdJanuary 29, 2000
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