An exquisite Chinese Canton 'pink' enamel tea canister of shaped outline decorated with figures in garden settings to panels against foliate detail on coloured grounds, the lid featuring flower to top. C. 19th Century. Fine.
When tea was first introduced into Europe from Asia, tea was very expensive and only available to the upper classes.
Condition: Body: fine. Lid: hairline and star cracks, chips to enamel.
Provenance: Ex. Private collection, UK.
Tea Caddies and Canisters are now highly collectable Chinese antiques for sale. A tea caddy is a box, jar, canister, or other receptacle used to store tea. When tea was first introduced into Europe from Asia, tea was very expensive, and only available to the upper classes. It was kept under lock and key. The containers used were expensive and often decorative, made to fit in with the rest of a period drawing-room. Servants, carried hot water up from the kitchen, and the tea made by the mistress of the house, or under her supervision.
The word ‘caddy’ is believed to have derived from catty, the Chinese pound, equal to about a pound and a third avoirdupois. The earliest examples that came to Europe were of Chinese blue and white porcelain, and in shape to a ginger-jar. They had Chinese-style lids or stoppers. Until about 1800 they were called tea canisters.
As with many Chinese exports, English manufacturers first imitated the Chinese forms, but then quickly devised forms and ornament of their own, and most ceramic factories in the country competed for the supply of the new fashion. Earlier tea caddies were made of either porcelain or faience. However, later designs were made from a variety of other materials including; wood, pewter, tortoiseshell, brass, copper and even silver, but the material most frequently used was wood, and these still survive large numbers. English factories produced high quality caddies. Georgian box-shaped caddies were manufactured in mahogany, rosewood, satin-wood and other timbers. These were often mounted in brass and delicately inlaid, with knobs of ivory, ebony or silver. The caddy spoon, typically in silver, was a wide shovel-like spoon for the tea, often with a scalloped bowl.
The wooden tea chest or caddy, with a lid and a lock, was made with two and often three divisions for the actual caddies, the center portion being reserved for sugar. In the late 18th and early 19th century, caddies made from mahogany and rosewood were popular. The Chippendale company made caddies in Louise Quize fashion, with claw and ball feet and exquisite finishes. The wooden caddies were rich and well-marked, the inlay simple and delicate, the form graceful and unobtrusive.
As tea grew cheaper there was less concern with the appearance of caddies, and as a result they fell out of use, as tea was now primarily kept in the kitchen. Tea caddies are now popular Chinese antiques for sale to collectors.
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