Teapots at the British Museum – Part 3

This rather elaborate teapot caught my eye because of its unusual shape, but as I looked closer I realised that the painted decoration was equally interesting and unique. It was manufactured in Rozenburg, in the Netherlands, in 1899, and is yet another example of the cross-cultural influences that permeate the world of tea. However, although the product of the Dutch pottery industry, it is quite different from the Delftware teapots usually associated with the Netherlands.

Delft teapot (source: article author)
Delft teapot (source: article author)

This teapot is made from very thin porcelain, commonly referred to as eggshell porcelain. Originally introduced in China in the Ming dynasty during the fifteenth century, this porcelain is almost paper-thin and is translucent when held up to the light. Although the knowledge of porcelain manufacture eluded European potters until the eighteenth century, by the end of the nineteenth century, when this teapot was made, European factories were producing a wide range of porcelain wares. Rather amazingly, considering the teapot’s complex shape and the delicacy of eggshell porcelain, it was manufactured in only two pieces: the body, including the handle and the spout, was cast in one piece in a rotating mould, and the lid was moulded separately.

The teapot’s flamboyant shape was the design of J Jurriaan Kok, who trained as an architect before joining the Rozenburg factory where he eventually became the managing director. His architectural background might explain the unusual shape the teapot, where the square base and square lid are offset by the rounded contours in the bulge of the body and quirky curves in the lid. The painted decoration was designed and executed by Wilhelmus Petrus Hartgring, who was a master painter at the Rozenburg factory by the time he worked on this teapot. His designs are noted for their Japanese inspiration, which can be seen on this teapot in the flat, almost pattern-like design of the water plants and the fish, which is reminiscent of Japanese Koi fish.

This teapot is certainly pleasing to look at, although I can’t help but wonder how comfortable the handle would be to hold when you actually had to pour tea! But it is a fascinating example of teapot creativity and another interesting case of cross-cultural influences; a teapot made in the Netherlands, using a Chinese pottery technique and inspired by Japanese painting traditions – that seems a pretty appropriate combination of cultural influences for an item dedicated to tea!

See more of Elise Nuding’s articles here.

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