Tea caddy

ARTIST / MAKER: Alexei Semyonovich Martyanov (maker)
DATE: 1884 (made)
PLACE: St Petersburg (made)
MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES: Silver, internal cork stopper

The body and lid of this Russian trompe l’oeil (‘deceiving’) tea caddy are chased to resemble woven birch bark. In Russia, there was a great tradition for basket making among Russian serfs and the skill of weaving was traditionally passed down from mother to daughter. Narrow bark strips were collected in the spring and were then conditioned in water, dried, smoothed and polished. After the Emperor of Russia, Alexander II, freed the serfs in 1861, there followed a great interest in their lives, arts and crafts, and as a result many artworks and domestic objects were decorated to resemble traditional Russian crafts such as weaving, fabric and wood.