Silver kettles first appeared at the end of the 17th century and served to replenish empty teapots, which were small at this time. To keep the water hot, they were supplied with stands fitted with a spirit burner that warmed the underside of the kettle, allowing the silver to act as a heat conductor. The handles were usually made of wicker or wood, or with ivory disk inserts that provided insulation from the boiling water. Due to the weight of a full kettle, they were often positioned next to the tea table on a stand and used with the assistance of a servant. As such large and impressive silver items, kettles became a focal point of the tea ceremony and an obvious expression of wealth.
A talented craftsman and an exceptional businessman, the maker of this kettle Paul de Lamerie was one of the greatest Huguenot silversmiths working in Britain during the 18th century. He emigrated from Holland with his family in 1689. Huguenots were French Protestants, many of whom fled from France following the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, which withdrew their right to practice their faith. Huguenot silversmiths helped to revolutionize silver design in Britain, introducing the newest techniques and styles. By the 1730s, globular kettles such as this example were being decorated with lively, rococo ornament. The scrolling handles, putti masks and floral aprons on this kettle are typical of de Lamerie’s rococo silver and these motifs feature frequently within his work. The style of the chasing on the kettle and stand suggests the influence of the so-called ‘Maynard Master’, de Lamerie’s virtuoso modeler whose work was characterised by putti with distressed or mournful expressions, spiralled buds described as ‘cinnamon bun’ scrolls and wilted lion heads. The kettle is engraved on each side with a different coat of arms; on one side are those of Crowe impaling Kenrick for Dr. Thomas Crowe (1672-1751) and his wife Anne (1685-1764), daughter of John Kenrick (1653-1730), a London merchant. The arms on the other side are those of Kenrick, probably Matthew Kenrick, who inherited the kettle after the death of his sister, Anne, in 1764. The kettle was later owned by three separate generations of the famous collecting family, the Rothschilds.