Precious commodities

Pair of silver tea caddies engraved with the arms of Featherstonhaugh impaling Lehtieullier, 1767. ©Sotheby's

I am delighted to be able to announce that we purchased this pair of silver tea caddies at auction at Sotheby’s in London yesterday. They are engraved with the arms of Sir Matthew Featherstonhaugh and his wife Sarah, who lived at Uppark in West Sussex, and are dated to 1767.

The purchase was supported by a fund set up by the late Simon Sainsbury as well as by other gifts and bequests to the National Trust.

Pair of silver salvers similarly engraved with the Featherstonhaugh and Lethieullier arms, 1746, acquired by the National Trust for Uppark in 2010. ©NTPL/John Hammond

The shape of the caddies – almost like milk churns – is unusual. The very obvious locks are testament to the still relatively high value of tea at that time. Presumably the keys would have been carried by Lady Featherstonhaugh herself, as she would have presided over the serving of tea to her guests.

The dining room in the Uppark late-1730s doll's house, which includes a miniature silver porringer and monteith, both hallmarked. ©NTPL/Nadia Mackenzie

Just last year we managed to buy a pair of silver salvers that had also belonged to Sir Matthew and his wife. Some more silver can be glimpsed in the dining room of Sarah’s grand and beautifully made dolls house, which was originally created in the late 1730s.

7 Responses to “Precious commodities”

  1. Jolie Beaumont (@JolieBeaumont) Says:

    The picture of the doll house is wonderful – and I love the fact that some of the miniature silver was hallmarked. I did, though, have to look up the meaning of the word “monteith,” since I didn’t know it referred to the scalloped bowl sitting in the right-hand corner, and thought I’d share what I found:

    Mentioned by an antiquary, Anthony Wood, in 1683, it was described as “a vessel or bason notched at the brims to let drinking glasses hang there by the foot, so that the body or drinking parte might hang in the water to coole them. Such a bason was called a ‘Monteigh’ from a fantastical Scot called ‘Monsieur Monteigh,’ who at that time or a little before, wore the bottome of his cloake or coate so notched.”

  2. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Jolie, thank you for that fascinating reference to Monsieur Monteigh’s scalloped coat – he must have been a bit of a dandy 🙂

    That reminds me of the origin of the word celadon (as in the ceramic glaze), which is supposed to have been inspired by a character in the early-seventeenth-century novel “L’Astrée” by Honoré d’Urfé, called Céladon, who apparently wore a green-coloured coat.

  3. HRH The Duchess of State Says:

    How absolutely gorgeous! congratulations on your new additions.

  4. style court Says:

    I love how the simplicity of the form balances the intricacy of the coat of arms.

  5. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Thank you, Your Royal Highness.

    Courtney, yes that quirkiness definitely adds to the interest, doesn’t it?

  6. Parnassus Says:

    Those tea caddies really do resemble milk cans–which makes them all the more appealing to me because I collect dairy-related items. The tops have an oddly truncated look. I have seen simple tea caddies in Taiwan that have elaborate finial-like (or pagoda-like) tops, and I wonder if the Featherstonhaugh examples were once more complex, and have been cut down or repaired. Or perhaps they went into a fitted wooden box.

    I love the salvers because they are both beautiful and weird. Do you know who made them? The later “medallion” pattern featured classical faces, but here are six of them staring into the interior of the dish. With all those eyes watching you, you might think twice about taking that extra hors d’oeuvre, or for that matter pocketing the spoons.

    Between locks and surveillance, the Featherstonhaughs had the latest in 18th-century high-tech security.
    –Road to Parnassus

  7. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Parnassus, how interesting about those pagoda-topped Taiwanese tea caddies. Hopefully our silver curator, James Rothwell, and the curator for Uppark, Sophie Chessum, can find out if this ‘milk churn’ shape has any particular significance or origin.

    The salvers purchased last year are by William Peaston. The tea caddies were catalogued by John Henry Vere and William Lutwyche. Sophie Chessum is wondering if they may actually be by William Vincent and John Lawford, but she hasn’t been able to study the marks yet.

    There is a lot of other Rococo decoration at Uppark with faces, foliage and fruit – I did a post about it earlier which I should have mentioned:

    Interestingly, I think the face and fruit symbolism may actually have been hinting at feasting and bounty, subliminally suggesting something like: “Go on, have some more.” But then that invitation seems to be balanced again by the stern keyholes on the tea caddies, saying: “All in good measure” 🙂

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