The Aesthetic movement swept Victorian art and design in the late 19th century, characterised by a belief in ‘art for art’s sake’, often seen as a response to the mechanisation of production as a result of the Industrial Revolution. Instead, the movement celebrated the beauty and visual qualities of art and objects prior to their purpose. Silver of the movement often combined other popular design trends, particularly Japonisme and Naturalism. Naturalistically inspired silver had been produced since the 18th century, but the surge in interest and proliferation of knowledge about the natural world during the Victorian period, as well as its stark contrast to industrial landscapes, created new themes of flora and fauna to inspire decorative motifs.
This kettle and stand was produced by Fenton Bros. Ltd. a Sheffield-based silversmithing workshop first established in 1850 by the brothers John and Frank Fenton. The overhead handle, spout and stand are designed to resemble branches and tree bark, while the body is engraved with foliate designs inspired by clovers and ferns. Although tea services were one of the firm’s specialities, they were popularly known for their folding biscuit tins, as well as supplying hotels, ships and restaurants with their wares, becoming makers to the war office during the First World War.