Teapot

1700-1720 (made)
Teapot thumbnail 1
Teapot thumbnail 2
+4
images
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
China, Room 44, The T.T. Tsui Gallery

This object consists of 4 parts, some of which may be located elsewhere.
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This stoneware teapot is in the form of a sheng. This was a Chinese musical wind instrument made from a group of reeds or bamboo tubes of different heights. The sheng was a particularly popular type of decoration in the Qing dynasty (1644-1912). At this time it was used to represent the Chinese word for 'growing' or 'give birth to', which is also pronounced 'sheng'.
This teapot is one of a pair, but since they were hand-made the two pieces are not identical. Even the brown clay fired to a slightly different colour. They were listed in the inventory of the great British collector William Beckford after his death in 1844. The two teapots appeared in the sale of his estate in 1845, and in the same year illustrations of them featured in the Illustrated London News.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Parts
This object consists of 4 parts.

  • Teapot
  • Lid
  • Teapot
  • Lid
Materials and Techniques
Red stoneware, hand moulded
Brief Description
Teapot in the form of a sheng, brown stoneware, Yixing, China, 1700-1720
Physical Description
A Yixing brown stoneware teapot in the form of a sheng, a musical wind instrument formed by a group of reeds or bamboo tubes of different heights. A cash pattern has been cut into the base to reveal the inner wall of the pot - a feature that would not be visible except when pouring the tea. A small cartouche with the name Menghou in seal script appears below the handle.

The sheng was a particularly popular decorative motif in the Qing dynasty as a rebus for 'growing' or 'give birth to', a word also pronounced 'sheng'.

The teapot is one of a pair, but since they were hand-made the two pieces are not identical. Even the brown clay fired to a slightly different colour.

A very similar teapot is in Dresden (N93, PO 3896), which was catalogued in 1721.
Dimensions
  • Height: 18.2cm
  • Width: 14.1cm
Styles
Marks and Inscriptions
A small cartouche with the name Menghou in seal script appears below the handle.
Gallery Label
  • Teapot Made by Menghou 1700-1720 This teapot is shaped like the Chinese musical instrument sheng. Unglazed brown stoneware Yixing kilns, south China W.H. Cope Bequest Museum no. 662B&C-1903(2007)
  • ‘Purple sand’ teapot China, Yixing 1700–20 This teapot imitates a sheng, a Chinese reed instrument. It was made after the Chinese switched from drinking tea whipped in a bowl to steeped tea, prepared in a pot. ‘Purple sand’ teapots from Yixing were praised by Chinese scholars and tea connoisseurs. They were also exported to Europe, where potters tried to imitate them. Unglazed brown stoneware Museum no. 662&A-1903 W.H. Cope Bequest. Formerly in the collection of William Beckford (1760–1844)(September 2009)
Credit line
W. H. Cope Bequest
Historical context
Bet McLeod's research has revealed that these two teapots were in William Beckford's inventory after his death in 1844, appeared in the sale 1845 and illustrated in the Illustrated London News 1845. She found no trace of Beckford's acquisition of the teapots.

Valuation is for one teapot
Summary
This stoneware teapot is in the form of a sheng. This was a Chinese musical wind instrument made from a group of reeds or bamboo tubes of different heights. The sheng was a particularly popular type of decoration in the Qing dynasty (1644-1912). At this time it was used to represent the Chinese word for 'growing' or 'give birth to', which is also pronounced 'sheng'.

This teapot is one of a pair, but since they were hand-made the two pieces are not identical. Even the brown clay fired to a slightly different colour. They were listed in the inventory of the great British collector William Beckford after his death in 1844. The two teapots appeared in the sale of his estate in 1845, and in the same year illustrations of them featured in the Illustrated London News.
Bibliographic References
  • Liefkes, Reino and Hilary Young (eds.) Masterpieces of World Ceramics in the Victoria and Albert Museum. London: V&A Publishing, 2008, pp. 88-89.
  • Wilson, Ming, Rare marks on Chinese ceramics, London : Published by the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, in association with the Victoria and Albert Museum, 199863
Collection
Accession Number
662 to C-1903

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record createdFebruary 9, 2000
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