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Teapot
  • Teapot
    Dresser, Christopher, born 1834 - died 1904
  • Enlarge image

Teapot

  • Place of origin:

    Sheffield (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1879 (made)
    1879 (designed)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Dresser, Christopher, born 1834 - died 1904 (designer)
    James Dixon and Sons (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Electroplated nickel silver with ebony handle

  • Credit Line:

    Purchased with generous support of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Art Fund, the American Friends of the V&A and an anonymous donor, the Friends of the V&A, the J. Paul Getty Jr. Charitable Trust and a private consortium led by John S.M. Scott

  • Museum number:

    M.4-2006

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Object Type
Because tea is made by infusing dried tea leaves in boiling water, the handle of the teapot is often made of wood or some other organic material to prevent it from becoming too hot.

Design & Designing
Christopher Dresser designed utilitarian objects for the general public, making full use of the latest techniques of mass production, and he is therefore often regarded as the 'father of industrial design'. His most innovative designs were for objects to be made in metal. Unlike his designs for ceramics and glass, which often resemble plant forms in their shape, ornamentation or colouring, his designs for metalwork objects tend to be fully abstracted from their organic source. He frequently employed symmetrical, rectilinear shapes and undecorated surfaces. This design appears in the costing book of James Dixon & Sons for 1879 as design no. 2274 and is described as 'English Japanese', pointing to the Japanese influence in some of Dresser's most radical metalwork designs.

Trading
Dresser was a prolific worker and produced designs for numerous manufacturers, including Hukin & Heath (about 1878-1890s), Elkingtons (about 1875-1888) and James Dixon & Sons (about 1879-1890s). Some of his designs were considered too ahead of their time to go into production, and six exist only as prototypes.

Physical description

Description from the Dixon calculation book of 1879 (now in the Sheffield Central Reference Library). "Teapot. Holds 1 1/2 Gill. Designed by Dr. Dresser. Body first put together in six pieces, 3 3/4 inch square [body], then the top part sawn off for the cover. Flat wire hard soldered inside top part of body and round the cover inside. Spout put together in four pieces; square tube, 1 1/16 inches made and passed through the centre of body and hard soldered in. Cast and turned part with tube socket hard soldered in ends for ebony handle. Cast knob." The "Stamping " line is not filled in but the six pieces of metal used for the body were cut out with a stamping machine. Two of them the 3 3/4 inch square sides turned on end as a lozenge (giving the body a diamond shaped profile) while the remaining four make up the square box-shaped body. A corner of the box shape was simply sawn off to make the lid, needing no extra metal and less labour than making a separate lid. (The lid is attached to the body by a plain hinge at the rear). The square hole in each side would probably have been stamped out by machine so that when the box shaped body was assembled, the square tube that forms the hollow centre could be inserted. The handle was made in three cast and turned parts (the lower, angled, arm requiring two), with separately made tube sockets to take the ebony rod. The four legs were cast and turned and hard soldered at right angle to the side walls of the body. (Rudoe, Judy, Design and Manufacture, Evidence from the Dixon & Sons Calculation Books in ed. Charlotte Gere and Judy Rudoe, "Christopher Dresser in Context," London, The Decorative Arts Society, No.29, 2005, p.70-1. ill.).

Place of Origin

Sheffield (made)

Date

ca. 1879 (made)
1879 (designed)

Artist/maker

Dresser, Christopher, born 1834 - died 1904 (designer)
James Dixon and Sons (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Electroplated nickel silver with ebony handle

Marks and inscriptions

Marks: 'Ch. Dresser' facsimile signature, J.D & S for James Dixon & Sons and '2274'

Dimensions

Height: 13 cm, Width: 23 cm Handle to spout

Object history note

Designed by Christopher Dresser (born in Glasgow, 1834, died in Mulhouse, France, 1904)
Made by James Dixon & Sons, Sheffield

'Silver City' Exhibition RF.2006/131
'Design by Design' Exhibition RF.2006/104 & 2007/16
'Design Cities' Exhibition RF.2007-755

Historical context note

Andrew McIntosh Patrick was the Managing Director of the Fine Art Society, 148 New Bond Street, London W1Y 0JT for 30 years until 2005. Between 1972 and 2005, he acquired a collection of metalwork designed by Dr. Christopher Dresser of approximately 50 pieces which until the sale of his collection by the Edinburgh auctioneers, Lyon & Turnbull on April 19, 2005, was the most distinguished collection of such material in either a public or private collection.

Descriptive line

Teapot, electroplated nickel silver with ebony handle, made by James Dixon & Sons, Sheffield, designed by Dr. Christopher Dresser, 1879

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

Halén, Widar Christopher Dresser, London, Phaidon - Christie's, 1990 p.1. ill. ISBN 0714880582
Whiteway, Michael and Morello, Augusto eds. Christopher Dresser 1834-1904, Milan, Skira, 2001 p.103. ill. ISBN 8884911028
Whiteway, Michael ed. The Shock of the Old, New York, Smithsonian, Cooper-Hewitt in association with V&A Publications, 2004, p.13. ill. ISBN 0810966603
Whiteway, Michael Christopher Dresser A Design Revolution, London, Victoria and Albert Museum, 2004, p.13 ill. ISBN 1851774289
Lyons, Harry Christopher Dresser, The People's Designer 1834-1904, Woodbridge, Antique Collectors' Club, 2005, p.186 ill. ISBN 1851494553
Rudoe, Judy, Design and Manufacture, Evidence from the Dixon & Sons Calculation Books in ed. Charlotte Gere and Judy Rudoe, "Christopher Dresser in Context," London, The Decorative Arts Society, No.29, 2005, p.70-1. ill. ISSN: 02609568

Labels and date

Teapot
Electroplated nickel silver with an ebony handle
Designed by Christopher Dresser, 1879
Made by James Dixon and Sons, Sheffield
Marked: facsimile signature, "Ch. Dresser" and "J.D.& S. 2274"
M.4-2006

Purchased with generous support of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Art Fund, the American Friends of the V&A and an anonymous donor, the Friends of the V&A, the J. Paul Getty Jr. Charitable Trust and a private consortium led by John S.M. Scott. [2006]

Materials

Nickel silver; Silver; Ebony

Techniques

Electroplating

Categories

Metalwork; Tea, Coffee & Chocolate wares; Scotland

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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