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Collection

A rare silver teapot by Charles Price,

London, 1818-1819.

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the distinctive form based on an eighteenth century Chinese Yixing stoneware teapot, the lid topped with a butterfly finial resting on a silver flower, the ribbed sides decorated with engraved studs mimicking rivets with alternating five pointed stars and stylised Tudor roses.

Engraved with interlaced ‘M’ beneath a baron’s coronet.

The ivory insulators have been replaced with tagua nut.

The form of the teapot is closely comparable to an example in the collection of the National Museums of Scotland made by John Page and dated 1817-18, part of a four-piece tea service that belonged to William Beckford (see Ostergard, op. cit., no. 59).

The surface decoration is remarkable for the period and does not conform to the prevailing fashions of the time, which may indicate it was a special commission. It bears notable similarities to the decoration of a silver sideboard dish by Samuel Whitford II and William Burwash made for William Beckford, now in the Victoria and Albert Museum (M.47-1980). The dish dates to 1814-15, the design attributed to Gregorio Franchi. Among the cinquefoils, (which were Beckford’s personal device), are five pointed stars and flowerheads.

Christopher Hartop, when describing the tea service in the National Museums of Scotland, points to another remarkable feature of the teapot- it has a silver handle with insulators. He comments that carved wooden handles were much more prevalent at the time, with insulated silver handles only becoming fashionable some twenty years later. The choice of silver was therefore likely to have been an aesthetic one (perhaps at the request of the customer).

William Beckford often added new pieces to existing suites of silver in his collection. For such additions, he did not always return to the silversmith who made the original pieces. For example, the tea service in the Museums of Scotland contains a slop bowel which was made a year later than the other pieces in the set and was not completed by John Page, but James Barratt or John Baddeley.

This difference in authorship may have arisen because Beckford was not corresponding directly with the silversmiths, but instead with a shop who appointed a studio to complete the order. John Page’s workshop was located in Horseshoe Court on Ludgate Hill, close to Rundell, Bridge and Rundell’s shop at 32 Ludgate Hill. Charles Price was also local in this area of London, based on Cross Street in Hatton Garden. It is therefore likely that both produced work for Rundell, Bridge and Rundell, where Beckford was a customer.

This theory is borne out by a silver-gilt teapot, also based on the same Yixing stoneware form, in the collection of the Royal Ontario Museum. Dated 1821-22, it bears the hallmarks of Philip Rundell. Hartop comments that the Yixing stoneware inspired teapots appear to have had little influence on wider fashion in silver design. We can extrapolate from the Ontario teapot that a possible reason for this was that the form was only used by a small group of silversmiths working for Rundell, Bridge and Rundell.

Literature:

Derek Ostergard (ed.), William Beckford 1760–1844: An Eye for the Magnificent, New Haven and London, 2001, no. 59 (for a teapot of the same pattern)

Peter Kaellgren ‘Chinese Yixing stoneware teapots as a source of English silver designs 1675–1830’, Silver Studies, 26 (2010), pp. 50–57 (for other examples)