Tea canisters are small containers used to store tea leaves. The form originated in Ming Dynasty China (1368–1644) however it was not until the late 17th century that they were imported into Europe and reproduced by European manufacturers. This tea canister is decorated with chinoiserie figures in exotic robes, holding fans, baskets of fruit and umbrellas, and surrounded by flowering shrubs and flying insects. These scenes were inspired by illustrated reports of travels and Chinese printed works and were considered appropriate and fashionable decoration for tea wares on account of tea’s Chinese origins.
Meissen’s great artistic period began in 1720 with the appointment of Johann Höroldt as the chief painter at the factory. Originally trained to paint porcelain at the Du Paquier porcelain manufactory in Vienna, he became a leading figure in the Meissen painting workshop. His experimentation with enamels led to the development of sixteen new colours which were used to embellish pieces such as this tea caddy. Höroldt specialised in painting both chinoiseries as well as European scenes. From 1723 he recorded more than 1000 of his designs for Chinese figures in a sketch book known as the Schultz Codex, to provide inspiration to the numerous painters in his workshop.