The Chitra Collection: European Porcelains

The Chitra Collection: European Porcelains
This porcelain teacup and saucer set was made by Chelsea, London, in 1775. The Chelsea porcelain manufactory was established circa 1745. At first, it made soft-paste porcelains for wealthy aristocrats, and early wares were based on pieces made by Meissen. By the 1750s and ’60s, Sèvres became more of an inspiration, and pieces were decorated with rich colors and elaborate gilding. By 1769, the factory was failing and was bought by William Duesbury of Derby, who continued to run it until 1784. Porcelains made at Chelsea during this period are often referred to as Chelsea-Derby.

While in Europe during the second half of the 18th century expensive porcelain tea wares were still mostly in the possession of the rich, the new potteries in Britain were making teapots, cups, and other tea wares for ordinary people. By the middle of the 18th century, tea consumption had increased sixfold, and with the decrease in the tea tax in 1784 from 119 percent to 12.5 percent, more people could afford to buy regular supplies. The output of tea wares from the potteries had to keep pace, and the jobs and revenue they generated were of great importance to the British economy. It was in the government’s interest, therefore, to discourage the importation of foreign porcelains, and import duties were gradually increased. At the beginning of the 18th century, the tax was 12.5 percent on wholesale auction prices on all China and Japan wares; by the early 1790s, that had increased to 50 percent; and by 1799, the tax was almost 109 percent.


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