Tea canister

DATE: 1723 - 1735 (made)
PLACE: China (made)
Netherlands (painted)
MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES: Porcelain painted in underglaze and overglaze enamels

By the late 17th century, tea was appreciated in the Netherlands for its medicinal properties, and tea-drinking had become a refined social custom amongst the Dutch upper-classes. Teapots, canisters, tea bowls and saucers contributed to the vast array of fashionable porcelain wares that were reaching Europe from China and Japan via the Dutch East India Company trading ships. This tea canister is an example of Amsterdams Bont, a category of Chinese porcelain that has been partly decorated in the Netherlands. The canister was likely made in the Jingdezhen kilns by Chinese potters, who decorated the surface with floral motifs in faint underglaze blue, using the pencilled (line-work) technique. Upon the canister’s arrival in the Netherlands, additional decoration was applied by Dutch painters using gilding and coloured iron-oxide enamels to add floral borders and a figure seated on a rock. This additional decoration made sparsely-decorated Chinese porcelain more appealing to Western consumers and enabled merchants in Amsterdam (from which the name derives) to compete with colourful ‘Imari’ style Japanese porcelain, which was fashionable but expensive at this time. Tea canisters such as this rarely retain their original lids.