the spherical body applied with traditional Chinese motifs including a bird perched on a blossom spray, bamboo and pine branches, the flat cover applied with coral and chinese motifs, contemprary gold mounts bearing later Dutch import marks for 1908-1953.
Gordon Elliot, John and David Elers and their Contemporaries, Jonathan Horne Publications, London, 1998.
C.H. de Jonge, Delft Ceramics, Pall Mall Press, London, 1969.
W.F.K. Baron van Verschuer, Ary de Milde Mr. Thrrpotbacker, Boek, Kunst & Handelsdrukkerij, Amsterdam, 1916.
Yixing teapots are made of a red or purplish clay known in China as Zisha. The porous nature of this clay allows it to absorb the flavour, colour and smell of the tea that is brewed in it and as a result people often devote one specific flavour of tea to the pot. Over time the clay takes on an attractive sheen and therefore these types of pots are almost always left unglazed.
The production of Yixing tea wares began in the Yixing region of China, located in the Jiangsu province, during the Sung dynasty (960-1279). This region of China is the world's only source for Zisha clay and therefore it is not surprising that Yixing wares were relatively unknown until the Ming Dynasty (1600's). The fashion for drinking tea in England and Europe in the late 17th and early 18th centuries fuelled a demand for trade with China that led to the increased production of these wares.
Dutch East India Company records contain several references to tablewares, mainly for the preparation and the consumption of tea, that conform to surviving recognisable types. The Day Register for the Company at Batavia records from Chang Chou in 1679 '7 cases of red teapots' and in 1680 '320 figured teapots from Macao'1.
As a result of this trade with the west Yixing teapots were widely copied in Holland and England at the end of the 17th and beginning of the 18th centuries. Dutch goldsmiths John and David Elers were working at this trade in England while Aij de Milde and Samuel van Eenhoorn were the most well known manufacturers in Holland. The teapots produced by the Elers brothers differed from the Chinese examples in that their ornament was typically stamped, rather than applied to the body. In addition, the English examples generally had domed covers and straight spouts whereas the Chinese teapots had flush covers and elegantly curved spouts. The Dutch examples mirrored the English shape but their ornament was typically applied onto the body in keeping with the Chinese tradition. Dutch and English teapots were often decorated with prunus sprigging but rarely with bamboo shoots, pine branches or coral motifs like the present example.
It is interesting to note that the Elers brothers worked in London and Dublin between 1680 and 1722. During this time they not only produced their own versions of such teapots but also imported Yixing examples from China. As they were qualified goldsmiths it is possible that they produced mounts for imported Yixing teapots such as this example.
For a similar Chinese example with silver mounts see Gordon Elliot, figure 9A.
1. Gordon Elliot, John and David Elers and their Contemporaries, Jonathan Horne, London, 1998, p. 16.
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