Awhile back I wrote about some expensive teapots. But price does not make something a true treasure. Provenance does. That is, it’s the story behind the item that makes it truly desirable. This is as true of teapots as it is of Fabergé bejeweled eggs or Chippendale furniture. With that in mind, here are some teapots that have that magic thing: a provenance that makes them true treasures.
- High Handle YiXing teapot from Wu Jing tomb — Declared to be “the great grandmother of YiXing teapots.” It dates from 1533, comes from the tomb of a palace servant (one highly placed enough to be made a eunuch), is not made of pure Zisha clay, and was used to boil water instead of steep tea (making it a transitional piece since later pots like this were used exclusively to steep tea). It is currently in the NanJing Museum and is beyond price.
- Silver Dragon Teapot — A silver teapot with gold accents, made in Edo (Tokyo), Japan, inscribed by Miyata Nobukiyo, and dating from 1876 when it was displayed at the Centennial Exhibition Philadelphia in the Memorial Hall in Philadelphia. Since that exhibition, the teapot came into the possession of the Walters family of Philadelphia, passing from William T. Walters to Henry Walters to the Walters Art Museum. Another teapot beyond the reach of us mere mortals.
- Meissen Chinoiserie teapot and cover — Made around 1724-25 by the Royal Manufactory at Meissen (specializing in items presented as gifts to members of European courts). About 16 years earlier their master potter Ehrenfried Walther von Tschirnhaus developed a special kind of porcelain called “hard paste” but died a few months later. His successor Johann Friedrich Böttger brought this discovery to market. Look for their signature logo (crossed swords), introduced in 1720 to protect their products, making it one of the oldest trademarks in existence. Hard paste porcelain dominated the industry for almost 50 years. This teapot is now part of the collection at the National Museum of American History.
- Movie Star Teapot — Lights, camera, pour! Those of you who watch the new Sherlock Holmes series on BBC may recognize this bone china teapot, decorated by a hand-printed map of the British Isles with ships sailing around. The design is by Ali Miller exclusively for Rockett St George, an online interiors emporium offering an eclectic mix of contemporary and stylish homeware and gifts. You can buy a copy of this teapot, but not the one used in the riveting exchange between Sherlock Holmes and Jim Moriarty in “The Reichenbach Fall.”
Yes, as you can see, these teapots are generally kept out of circulation and on display, not “in harness” in someone’s kitchen or tea parlor. That is, they are retired now, although they probably steeped up a storm in their early days. Becoming a true treasure apparently takes time as well as a great provenance.
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