Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Unusual Artifacts: A Ceramic Tea Canister, 1760-70

Bohea Tea Cannister
c. 1760
The Victoria & Albert Museum
As we already know, in the Eighteenth Century, tea was quite a luxury and was therefore stored in vessels which not only connoted its value, but kept it safe. It's difficult for us to think of such common items as salt and tea to have any real value when we look at them through modern eyes, but that just makes us wonder what, two centuries from now, will be commonplace that we presently assign great worth.

A fitting container for valuable tea, this tea canister and cover are made of salt-glazed stoneware. Rectangular, with a flat top and wooden cover, it is painted in strong colors with small figures in landscapes and, on the front, in a panel surmounted by a mask and flanked by flowers, urns and scrollwork, reads the inscription, "FINE BOHEA TEA."

This sort of domestic, ceramic tea canister tended to resemble miniature versions of the dramatic japanned metal vessels from which loose tea was dispensed in shops. This particular example was most likely made at one of the Yorkshire pottery concerns rather than in Staffordshire.

The fine quality and condition of this piece suggests that it was infrequently, if ever, used and may, in fact, have been employed as part of a shop window display. 

No comments: