Tea caddy and spoon

DATE: 19th century (made)
PLACE: Isfahan (made)
MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES: Chased and engraved silver

This rounded tea caddy and its spoon were produced in Isfahan in the 19th century, the most important centre for silver production in Persia (Iran) with many items, including tea wares, produced for Western consumers in its numerous workshops.

The finely chased ornamentation of tightly intertwined arabesques, blossoms, and foliage is typical of Isfahan silverware. A central oval is adorned with a bird surrounded by floral and leaf patterns and is likely influenced by the gul-o-bul-bul, or rose and nightingale – a popular motif in Iranian decorative arts and literature. In poetry, it was used to represent the beloved and the loved. The yearning of the nightingale for the rose symbolised the desire of the human soul for union with God. In the 19th century, the emblem also grew popular with Western collectors, and was so closely associated with Iran than it became an informal national symbol. In contrast with the body, the lid is decorated with a medallion containing a repoussé raised pattern, framed by a conforming border, another feature of Isfahan silver.