Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Art of Play: A Silver Toy Coffee Pot, 1720

The Victoria & Albert Museum

This miniature coffee pot is a toy in the sense that, in the Eighteenth Century, any knick-knack or fashionable trinket for adults, as well as a child’s plaything, was called a toy. If you think about it, the same idea is still true today. Whether it’s a plush animal or a diamond ring, something that amuses us is still a toy—luxurious or not.

This particular “toy” is made of silver and the maker took great care to copy the exact details and proportions of a full-size coffee pot. Silver toys like this might have been designed to furnish dolls’ houses. Some might have been miniature trade samples. Others were made as practice pieces for apprentices.

However, more so than anything else, these items were made as fashionable novelties for adults to collect and as playthings for the children of wealthy families. Because they were light and small, silver toys are not fully hallmarked, so it’s hard to say who the maker of this particular example might have been.

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