Tea caddy

1881
Gorham Manufacturing Company (active 1865–1961)


Object Place: Providence, Rhode Island, United States

Dimensions

Overall: 10.5 x 10.5 x 9.4 cm, 0.27 kg (4 1/8 x 4 1/8 x 3 11/16 in., 0.6 lb.) Other (Dia of base): 7.3 cm (2 7/8 in.)

Accession Number

1991.636

Medium or Technique

Copper, silver

On View

Robert P. and Carol T. Henderson Gallery (Gallery 228)

Collections

Americas

Classifications

Silver hollowware

This raised copper tea caddy has a ceramic glazelike finish and is ornamented in a highly naturalistic manner, with applied silver leaves, flowers, peppers, and a grasshopper. On the body, applied granules of copper and silver simulate the earth; a mouse appears on the separate lid.


One of the earliest known copper pieces from Gorham’s distinctive Art Silver line, this tea caddy represents a relatively small, but exclusive, body of work that was decorated with silver appliqués and fittings and produced between 1881 and 1885. The design and decoration were clearly influenced by the extraordinary achievements of Japanese Meiji metalwork, despite the fact that Asian tea caddies were typically ceramic. Still, this vessel’s shape does depend on Chinese Ming wares as adapted from the ginger jar, a form collected in America since colonial times.
In addition to its affordability, copper allowed for a wide range of color options, from warm reds to deep chocolate browns. Works such as this, with its pristine glazelike finish, are highly prized. Original matte surfaces rarely survive, and the process used to create them is no longer understood.

This text has been adapted from “Silver of the Americas, 1600-2000,” edited by Jeannine Falino and Gerald W.R. Ward, published in 2008 by the MFA. Complete references can be found in that publication.

Inscription

"C.J. [or S] B / from F.W.J [or S]" in script engraved on bottom. "21" stamped on both rim and inside lid.

Markings

On base: "Gorham CO / 160 / N" below an anchor hallmark; Above the Gorham anchor is scratched "H / 13"

On lid: stamped number "21" inside of the lid.

Provenance

Early history unknown; by 1991 owned by W.M. Schwind Jr. Antiques, Yarmouth. Maine; 1991, purchased from W.M. Schwind Jr., Antiques by the MFA

Credit Line

Museum purchase with funds donated by Mr. and Mrs. Fred G. Peil, Irma M. Lampert, Henry B. and Klaudia S. Shepard Jr., Gage Bailey Jr., Dr. and Mrs. Francis de Marneffe, Charles S. Nichols, Frank and M. L. Coolidge, Jane E. Coolidge, Angela B. Fischer, Elisha W. Hall II, Ruth F. Hamlen, Faith Moore, Olivia and John Parker, Mr. and Mrs. Walter W. Patten, Jr., J. E. Robinson III, John and Patricia Rodgers, Irvin and Rebekah Taube, Anne D. Moffett, and Louise and Jonathan L. Fairbanks