ASCAS Association of Small Collectors of Antique Silver
Members' Window # 104
by Giovanni Ciceri
(click on images to enlarge)


This "bachelor" tea set (for its small size has been intended for a single), hallmarked for London 1879, has been made by William & John Barnard, belonging to one of the most famous families of silversmiths of the Victorian period.

The style of this tea set, consisting of a teapot, a milk jug and a sugar bowl, is known as "Japanese", especially for the particular decoration of clear Eastern influence. Here, also the shape of the individual pieces (especially the teapot) is inspired to terracotta models in use in China in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, though not originally designed for tea but to contain other type of beverages, like wine.

The "Japanese" style, also known as the Aesthetic Movement, formally exploded after the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition of 1876. Its influence in Great Britain is documented since in 1868, but is only after 1880 that this style consolidated its influence, mainly as a result of trips to Japan by Christopher Dresser, following the opening of trade with this country by Great Britain.
Silver tea set,  hallmarked London 1879
The Aesthetic Movement, like the Art Nouveau, found its roots in the reaction to the Industrial Revolution in England in the middle of the 19th century and emphasized art in the production of furniture, metalwork, ceramics, stained glass, textiles, wallpapers, and books. It was related to other movements such as symbolism or decadence represented in France, or decadentismo represented in Italy, and may be considered the British version of the same styles. This style is considered practically abandoned by 1901, at the sunset the great success of Oscar Wilde.
The major artistic expression of the Aesthetic Movement on silver artifacts can be found in works by Tiffany and Co. in USA, mainly where silver was combined with copper and others metals. No similar examples occurred In Great Britain, because the only metal that could be used together with silver was gold.
The naturalistic design of this set includes many of the typical "Japanese" decorations: flowers, birds, ginkgo leaves and peacock feathers. Apart from design and decoration this tea set contains other features connected to the Aesthetic Movement. In particular it was manufactured using a manual technique (the seaming) in a period where the contribution of machine for manufacturing silverware was the rule.
Dimension and weight:
Tea pot: 13.5 cm tall, 16 cm wide. Weight 282 g.
Milk Jug: 5.8 x 4.7 x 6 cm tall. Weight 80 g.
Sugar bowl: 11 cm across and 7 cm tall: Weight 136 g.
Overall weight 508 g.

Giovanni Ciceri -
- 2013 -