Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: The Sèvres Elephant Coffee Pot, 1862

This and all related images from:
The Victoria & Albert Museum

I don’t care for coffee, but, I would drink coffee were it poured from the trunk of this elephant. Here, we see a stunning coffee pot and cover in the form of the head of an elephant. It is constructed of porcelain with pâte-sur-pâte (when layers of relief adornment are applied to an unfired porcelain piece by applying white slip with a brush) decoration and gilt.

When this coffee pot was made in 1862, Britain was finding elephants quite fashionable. You see, the second half of the Nineteenth Century saw a series of international exhibitions of displaying fine and decorative arts from across the globe. This served to introduce new themes to the decorative arts. Exotic animals, especially those from India, were especially popular in Britain.

This jolly, but, slightly menacing, elephant was displayed at the London 1862 International Exhibition by the French manufacturer, Sèvres, who described it as “A Coffee Pot Of 'Oriental' inspiration.” The elephant was created by the designer and decorator Marc Louis Solon—known for his imagination and whimsy. This piece allowed Solon to showcase his sense of humor and artistic expertise.

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