Sunday, June 29, 2014

Object of the day, Museum Edition: A Beaded Tea Cozy, 1860

Beaded Tea Cozy
England, 1860
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Our Victorian Forebears took great care in ensuring that even the most utilitarian of objects was as attractive as possible. Today, let’s look at one such object—a tea cozy (or, as our U.K. friends spell it, “cosy,”) which was designed to be placed over a pot of tea in order to keep it warm.

This tea cozy was made around 1860 in London and is decorated with glass beads. This was made by an amateur embroiderer in the home for purposes of domestic use. Here, we see a design of roses and lilies on a bright blue ground. This sort of design and color palette is characteristic of Mid-Victorian decorative arts. This is the sort of cozy that would have been kept for special occasions and would have been used with the “best” silver or porcelain tea—reserved to impress special visitors or for use on important occasions.

Such beadwork was the height of fashion in the 1850s and 1860s and I’m a big fan of it. Beads were often used to adorn Victorian embroidered decoration on everything from fashion to upholstery and found use in a wide range of domestic items.

Most likely, the beads came from Germany or Italy where the glass industries produced and exported vast numbers of such beads in a brilliant variety of colors. The beads that we see here were known as :pound” beads because they were purchased by weight. These came in two popular types—bright opaque colors and translucent clear shades. Both can be seen utilized here.

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