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Casket

  • Place of origin:

    West Midlands (made)

  • Date:

    1765-1775 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Painted enamel on copper, with baize lining and gilt metal mounts

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Myles Burton Kennedy, Esq.

  • Museum number:

    C.424 to D-1914

  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 118; The Wolfson Gallery, case 1 []

Object Type
This casket contains a box for sugar, and two canisters, one used for a green tea such as Hyson; the other for a black tea like Bohea. Good tea remained an expensive commodity until 1784, due largely to the high level of taxation, so the casket was provided with a lock and key, probably to keep the contents secure from the servants. The canisters would help keep the tea fresh and sugar dry for as long as possible. Tea caskets were also made in wood with silver canisters inside, and other examples in enamel are known.

Materials & Making
The fine craftsmanship of this piece, with its technically-accomplished enamelling and elegant chased gilt-metal mounts, places it at the heyday of West Midlands enamelling work. The individual panels which make up the front, back and lid of the casket are at the limits of what it was possible to achieve before larger enamelling kilns became available after 1780.

Design & Designing
The pink ground colour of this piece combined with the ornate raised gilt scrolling and white enamel dots echo the decoration of Chelsea porcelain of the 1760s, which was in turn emulating fashionable Sèvres porcelain. The pastoral scenes are reminiscent of the works of French painters such as Claude Lorrain, popularised in England through the work of engravers such as François Vivares. Such scenes were highly popular on West Midlands enamels of the 1760s and 1770s.

Place of Origin

West Midlands (made)

Date

1765-1775 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Painted enamel on copper, with baize lining and gilt metal mounts

Dimensions

Height: 12.7 cm, Width: 20.95 cm, Depth: 12.06 cm

Object history note

Made in the West Midlands

Descriptive line

Casket containing two tea canisters and a sugar box

Labels and date

British Galleries:
The making of large enamelled objects of this type was unusual for the West Midlands enamellers, most of whose products were trinkets and small boxes. The extent and elaboration of the decoration are also exceptional. [27/03/2003]

Categories

Containers; Tea, Coffee & Chocolate wares

Collection

Ceramics Collection

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