Just when you think you’ve heard about every kind of teapot out there, along comes the veilleuse-théière.
When people know you are interested in tea and all things related, they start telling you about this and that — a tea room you gotta try, a new tea on the market, and of course a teapot museum such as the one in Trenton, Tennessee (mentioned in this article on our blog). One of hubby’s co-workers told him about the museum and the town, saying it had info on teapots. Well, it turned out to be about the world’s largest collection of veilleuse-théières, with over 650 different ones, all sought out and purchased by Dr. Frederick C. Freed, born and raised in Trenton. And that spurred the question: What is a veilleuse-théière?
“Veilleuse” (VAY-yerz) is a French word meaning “night light” or “side light.” And “théière” (TAY-ee-yair) means “teapot.” Okay, so what is a “night light teapot”?
Well, they’re not those cute little teapot-shaped night light covers you’ve probably seen advertised here and there. They are basically teapots that sit on a warming stand. It’s not a stand like you may be used to, but it is fairly similar. The big difference is the height. Teapot warmers today are usually only a couple of inches high, whereas the veilleuse (the stand part) can be twice as tall as the teapot, which is usually on the small side, with a 2-cup capacity on average.
The designs vary widely and clearly span decades of art trends, from Baroque, Rococo, and Art Deco, to those eras when a fascination with Egyptian, Japanese, and other Asian designs were all the rage. Some teapot/stand shapes include male and female figures, buildings, elephants, dragons, and other objects, where they are designed so interwoven that it can be hard to tell where the teapot ends and the stand begins. Other designs have a stand and teapot that are clearly distinguished, with the stand being in the shape of a column or a bulbous pot and the teapot being fairly normal in shape, with the handle and spout easily differentiated.
So how can you get one? Keep a sharp eye out. They come up for sale on auction sites and even e-Bay.com. You will, of course, want to be sure you are getting the genuine article. And be prepared to spend a rather tidy sum of money. One recently sold for $500 online.
For those of us (me included) who have a rather tighter budget, go for a regular warming stand for your teapot. Most ceramic, porcelain, glass, and metal teapots can sit on them safely. Either that, or just drink your tea fast so it doesn’t cool!
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