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[AC] Mead Art Museum at Amherst College; [HC] Hampshire College Art Gallery;
[HD] Historic Deerfield; [MH] Mount Holyoke College Art Museum; [MH SK] The Joseph Allen Skinner Museum at Mount Holyoke College; [SC] Smith College Museum of Art; [UM] University Museum of Contemporary Art at UMASS Amherst


Title:tea canister
Date Made:ca. 1755
Type:Food Service
Materials:ceramic: white salt-glazed stoneware
Place Made:United Kingdom; England; Staffordshire
Measurements:overall: 3 3/4 in x 2 3/4 in x 1 3/4 in; 9.525 cm x 6.985 cm x 4.445 cm
Accession Number:  HD 62.116

English white salt-glazed stoneware tea canister with a press-molded, rectangular body with a short neck and flat top; a small diaper pattern bordering the top of both sides; circular opening 1/2" above the flat shoulder (missing lid); and flat base. The relief images on the canister sides are derived from "An Embassy from the East-India Company of the United Provinces to the Grand Tatar Cham, Emperor of China" by Johannes Nieuhof (1618-1672), his account of the 1655-1657 trip originally printed in Amsterdam in 1665, and first published in London in 1669 by John Macock, and then translated by John Ogilby and reprinted in 1673. In addition to detailing the mission of the trip (establishing Dutch trade with China), the book offers information on flora, fauna, and customs of the Chinese native people. The images included in this book are some of the earliest ever published on China, and were often the source for later publications on China. The English edition became an important inspiration for decoration on 18th century English stoneware and earthenware, especially on tea services, which well served the Staffordshire makers of block-moulds who were desperate for new ideas. One side has a flowering tea plant and the impressed inscription "CIA / or TE / herb" to the right, which according to Nieuhof was the plant "Cha; " the other has a bare plant with vine looped over its branches and motto "Herb Teng" to the right in a half-visible scroll, which Nieuhof commented was "an admirable kind of Withy or Vine." With no Chinese porcelain protypes to copy, British ceramic tea canisters of the 18th century took several different forms. They are mostly, however, square or octagonal with a wide cylindrical lip, and seem to derive from the japanned metal canisters used for displaying and dispensing tea and coffee in grocers' shops. By contrast, smarter tea canisters of glass or silver tended to copy the wooden tea chest, complete with its wavy metal edging and corners. Only later in the century was the little baluster-shaped canister copied by English porcelain factories (for example, Worcester), which imitated Chinese vase-like versions made solely for export. Although Staffordshire white stoneware had been perfected by about 1720, its possibilities for mass-production were not fully exploited until the 1740s. Then the techniques of press-moulding, slip-casting and enamelling were developed, and the drabness of the greyish stoneware surface was successfully relieved by the addition of all-over decoration (parallels may be drawn here with the development of British pressed glass after the mid-19th century). Some salt-glazed stoneware examples show traces of cold gilding. Versions of this tea canister are known in green-glazed creamware and green and orange lead-glazed creamware (melon decoration).


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