Tea caddy

DATE: ca.1790 (made)
PLACE: England (made)
MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES: Wooden frame with scrolled filigree paperwork and mica encased in glass

Wooden tea caddies such as this example were made by cabinet makers and designed for women to decorate at home. The surface of this caddy has been covered in quilling, also known as filigree paperwork, due to its resemblance to gold and silver filigree metalwork. This rich and complex surface decoration is created with small strips of different coloured paper, which are tightly rolled, pinched or crimped and then glued onto the undecorated wooden frame. This became a popular pastime for upper class women from the late 18th to early 19th century, when wooden tea caddies could be purchased with published sheets of filigree designs to be copied at home. In 1786, the New Ladies Magazine printed a series of 60 filigree paperwork patterns for women to follow. Much like embroidery, filigree paperwork took many painstaking hours to complete when executed to a high standard. The front of this tea caddy is embellished with an oval recess containing a coloured print of a landscape, set amongst scrolls of filigree paperwork. This piece is unusual in that it does not feature portraits of the maker’s family, which was a common choice of decoration.