Silver kettles first appeared at the end of the 17th century and served to replenish empty teapots. To keep the water hot, they were supplied with stands fitted with a spirit burner that warmed the underside of the kettle, allowing the silver to act as a heat conductor. Due to the weight of a full kettle, they were often positioned next to the tea table stand and used with the assistance of a servant. As such large and impressive silver items, kettles became a focal point of the tea ceremony and an obvious expression of wealth.
From the French word for Chinese, ‘chinois’, the chinoiserie style took inspiration from Chinese art and design. European artists and craftspeople reimagined and reinterpreted motifs that appeared Chinese to European consumers often in a whimsical and fanciful style. Typical imagery included pagodas and figures in Chinese dress, such as in this example, which depicts a group of dignitaries picking fruit in a garden on one side, while the other shows people taking tea around the tea table on which sits a sugar bowl, milk jug and tea caddy. While one seated figure pours the tea, another brings a kettle and tea bowl towards the pair, with both scenes embedded in a rococo cartouche.
Working previously in a partnership with John Wakelin, Robert Garrard I entered his first solo mark in 1802, taking over the business on Wakelin’s death. The business remained in the family for the next 150 years, and were widely renowned for their high quality silverware. On the accession of William IV in 1830, the company was appointed as Crown Goldsmith and then in 1843 as Crown Jewellers by Queen Victoria.