The Chitra Collection: Stunning Silver Wares

The Chitra Collection: Stunning Silver Wares
Dating between 1815 and 1819, this four-piece French tea set was made by Jean-Baptiste-Claude Odiot for the French journalist and statesman Hugues-Bernard Maret, the 1st Duke de Bassano. The teapot features a swan spout and a double serpent handle. He made an identical teapot for Napoleon. The vase-shaped hot water urn features a straight spout with a lion’s mask, a mother-of-pearl crescent tap, and three winged half-lions and paw feet that rest on a triangular lamp base, which is decorated with lions’ heads in foliage wreaths, Bacchus heads, and putti (winged, chubby, nude male children) riding wildcats.

By the 1770s, rococo had given way to the neoclassical style. In England, the architectural designs of brothers Robert, James, and John Adam simplified the lavish excesses of baroque and rococo with the lighter, more elegant neoclassical style, which also influenced the manufacturers of silver tea wares until around 1795. In 1807, in his Letters from England, under the pseudonym Don Manuel Álvarez Espriella, Robert Southey writes, “The breakfast-table is a cheerful sight. . . . The mistress sits at the head of the board, and opposite to her the boiling water smokes and sings in an urn of Etruscan shape.”

The Chitra Collection: Stunning Silver Wares
This 18th-century Tibetan teapot was made of copper alloy and silver. This particularly elaborate example features a dragon-shaped handle and a spout that emerges from the jaws of a makara, a mythical sea creature of Indian origin.

As has happened with porcelain and earthenwares made during the same period (Wedgwood was famed for his Etruscan pots and vases), silver pots, jugs, newly fashionable hot water urns, sugar baskets, and tea chests followed classical shapes and lines. These accoutrements were more simply decorated with fluting, beading (achieved with a small punch), piercing (carried out with a newly invented piercing saw), the application of medallions bearing classical themes or the heads of famous historical figures, ribbon work, scrolling, and borders of flowers and leaves. 

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