- Place of origin:
London, England (made)
ca. 1745 (made)
Landall & Gordon (possibly, designer)
- Materials and Techniques:
Veneered with mahog
- Museum number:
W.11:1 to 2-1965
- Gallery location:
Furniture, room 133, case BY7, shelf WALL
The elegant boxes that we now call tea caddies were known as tea chests in the 18th century. Until the second half of the century, tea remained a luxurious and expensive commodity. The fashionable design of tea chests reflected its value, while the locks fitted to the chests kept the tea secure. This tea chest is veneered in fine woods imported from islands in the Indian Ocean and the Caribbean. The maker also used engraved brass plaques to enliven the design. Only a few workshops in London used engraved brass plaques in this way at the time. The firm of Landall & Gordon published a trade card that illustrates a very similar tea chest, and they may have been the makers of this one.
Tea chest of bombé, sarcophagus form with a hinged lid, the carcase of mahogany and oak, veneered with mahogany, tulipwood and engraved brass and set with brass and gilt-brass mounts; key of steel
. [Tea chest] Decoration
All four sides are veneered with central panels of mahogany in single sheets, the grain running horizontally, except on the back, where it runs diagonally. All four are cross-banded in tulipwood at the sides and the base, but not on the top edge. The mahogany panels are inlaid at each corner with scrolling, wrapped leaves in brass, highlighted with engraved detail filled with black mastic. On the front the main panel is additionally inlaid in brass with a shaped lock-plate in the form of a wall fountain, supported on either side by a mermaid with a curling tail. The corners are mounted with quadrant strips of brass or gilt-brass, slightly recessed between the adjacent veneers. The strips follow the contours or the box and are attached with pins at top and bottom. The top edges of all four sides of the chest are cross-banded in cherry, meeting at mitres at the corners.
The vertical frame of the lid rises approximately 2 cm. The underside is set with cross-banding in cherry which extends beyond the lid very slightly, creating a small moulding. The sides of this frame and the top, outer edge of the lid above it are set with cross-banding of tulipwood. Between the veneers are set quadrant mouldings in walnut, meeting at a mitred join at the front top corner, these appearing slightly counter-sunk between the cross-bandings. To the inside of the cross-banding on the top, the broad concave moulding is faced with brass sheet, mitred at the corners. The flat top panel is veneered in a similar manner to the sides, with a narrower cross-banding to all four sides but with the same four wrapped-leaf motifs. The top is set centrally with a gilt-brass bail handle set between two outward-facing eagles heads with gadrooned collars. The handle is composed of two rising scrolls with a swelling, reeded, central section.
The underside of the lid is lined with red silk damask within the cross-banding on the lower edge. The silk is cut in five panels to cover the flat central section and the bolection-moulded frame. There has been no attempt to match the pattern of the silk which appears to be quite large. The joins in the silk are covered with narriow silver braid (known as 'lace' in the eighteenth century).
The base is a single mahogany board, reinforced underneath with a mitred frame of oak slats 2.5 cm wide and 3 mm deep. This framing is inset from the outer edges of the mahogany board and edged with brass strips 8 mm wide which extend beyond the carcase with a rounded profile forming the base mount of the chest. The brass framing strips are mitred at the corners, the joints hidden by the four gilt-brass feet, cast in the form of hairy paws and each screwed up through the brass strips into the underside of the carcase with two screws. The base is probably set within a rebate in the sides of the carcase but any visible join is hidden by the oak under-frame. The sides of the carcase appear to be mitred and show no evidence of other jointing on the inside (where the sides do not follow the bombé form of the exterior. They are, however, probably dovetailed. The shaping of the sides, back and front is probably cut in the solid but may be built up in sections on the outside. The centre of the front is inset with a brass lock. The chest is divided into three equal compartments by two thin boards of mahogany, cut as a V at either end and running in V-shaped notches cut into the front and back of the chest. The top of the right panel only shows a shallow facing at the top with maple.
The lid is composed of a low, vertical frame, probably joined by dovetails. Set onto this frame is a second frame, of bolection form on the inner surface and showing a concave moulding on the upper surface. This may be glued or pinned to the top of the lower frame and the central, flat panel similarly glued or pinned to the top edge of this frame. None of the jointing of the lid is visible because of the veneering or covering of both inner and outer surfaces. The lid is attached to the body by two small brass knuckle hinges. Yhe front edge is set towards the centre with the iron hasp plate of the lock.
Most of the screws fixing feet or hinges have been replaced. The right-hand hinge is broken on one plate. The left-hand divider (without the top edging of sycamore) is possibly a replacement. The inlay on the upper left corner of the right side is a replacement, showing no engraving. The lockplate shows one small area of replaced brass (circular) just to the left of the lock. The gilding of the handle shows much wear. Three lengths of the silver braid are missing from the lining of the lid.
[key] A steel key with oval bow, the inside of the outer bow slightly thickened
Place of Origin
London, England (made)
ca. 1745 (made)
Landall & Gordon (possibly, designer)
Materials and Techniques
Veneered with mahog
[Tea chest] Height: 17.8 cm with handle folded down, Width: 28.7 cm, Depth: 18 cm
[key] Length: 4.4 cm, Height: 2 cm over bow
Object history note
Purchased from H. Blairman & Sons Ltd, (Nominal File: Blairman, H. & Sons, MA/1/B1600), 15 June 1965 from the Antique Dealers' Fair. A note in Peter Thornton's hand makes the case for its acquisition 'because it is brass-inlaid and must be an example of the oeuvre of John Channon, about whom Mr Hayward has been writing in the 'Bulletin'. It will be mentioned in the follow-up article Mr. Hayward is now composing.'
Historical context note
Furniture of mahogany and occasionally of padouk, inlaid with brass plaques, was a relatively short-lived phenomenon during the 18th century in England. The earliest pieces appear to date from the 1730s and by the middle of the century, the fashion had faded. The technique is associated with the London cabinet-maker John Channon (1711-1779), who signed two monumental bookcases for Powderham Castle, Devon, in 1740 (V&A museum no. W.1&A-1987) but was practised by several other makers. It was associated with the movement between Germany and London of young German cabinet-makers to work in Britain, particularly Abraham Roentgen (1711-1793 ) and Johann Friedrich (Frederick) Hintz ( ca. 1711-1772 ). It is still unclear whether they learned this technique in London, or brought the idea of it with them but Abraham Roentgen at least, made furniture with this technique after his return to Germany.
The application of the technique varied from simple brass stringing to the inlay of complex, pierced motifs, and sometimes large plaques that were engraved like printing plates, the lines highlighted with dark mastic. These motifs sometimes followed published engravings.
In the late 1740s, the London firm of Landall & Gordon published a trade card illustrating a very similar tea chest to this one and it is attributed to them on that account.
Tea chest of mahogany and oak, veneered in mahogany, tulipwood, cherry and brass, with gilt-brass mounts. British. Possibly made by Landall & Gordon, ca. 1745
Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)
Gilbert, Christopher and Tessa Murdoch, eds. John Channon and Brass-inlaid Furniture 1730-1760. New Haven and London: Yale University Press in Association with Leeds City Art Galleries and the Victoria and Albert Museum, 1993, pp. 121-2, 160
Walkling, Gillian, Tea Caddies, 1985, pl. 33
Hayward, John, 'The Channon Family of Exeter and London', in Victoria and Albert Museum Bulletin, April 1966, vol. II, no. 2, pp. 64-70, fig.5.
John Cornforth, 'Puzzles in Brass', Country Life, vol. CLXXXVII, 11 November 1993, pp. 44-45, fig.3.
John Channon and Brass-Inlaid Furniture 1730-60 (Victoria and Albert Museum 01/01/1994-31/12/1994)
John Channon and Brass-Inlaid Furniture 1730-60 (Temple Newsam, Leeds 01/01/1993-31/12/1993)
Labels and date
[Label from the Channon Exhibition, Leeds and London]
Mahogany with padouk cross-banding and brass inlay
Attributed to Thomas Landall and John Gordon, London, c. 1745
The bombé form, cast lion's paw feet, brass corner strings and pattern of foliate corner ornaments on the top and sides are closely similar to the inlaid decoration on a tea chest featured on Landall and Gordon's trade card and on another tea chest in a private collection.
Acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1965 (W.11-1965) 
Possibly by Landall & Gordon (active about 1740–8)
Carcase: mahogany, oak and cherry
Veneer: mahogany, tulipwood and brass
Mounts: gilded brass
Lid: lined with red silk and silver braid (both original)
Museum no. W.11-1965
Inlay is often combined with veneering. Here, veneers of richly figured woods were first glued to the curved wooden carcase, then recesses were cut for the motifs of sawn sheet brass. Inlaying into a curved surface required particular skill to achieve a close fit. [01/12/2012]
Attributed to Landall & Gordon by reason of its similarity to the design of a tea chest illustrated on their trade card, published ca. 1745. A copy is in the British Museum
Brass; Steel; Oak; Mahogany; Sycamore; Gilt-brass; Tulipwood; Cherry
Engraving; Veneering; Cabinet making; Marquetry
Tea, Coffee & Chocolate wares; Marquetry