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 and lids 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.
Edward Farrell was one of the most innovative sculptural plate suppliers in England, active during the first half of the 19th century. He worked alongside the retailer Kensington Lewis, whose most valued patron was Frederick, Duke of York, which greatly bolstered Farrell’s career. He specialised in the production of sculptural plate inspired by Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo sources and was renowned for creating works in high relief. This kettle is embossed and chased with classical scenes of Alexander the great with the daughters of Darius III of Persia, after Darius’ defeat. Opposing the bird-form spout is a bust of the Dutch politician Hendrik Hooft (1716-1794) with an honorific inscription engraved beneath.