Tea set

ARTIST / MAKER: Tiffany & Co. (maker)
DATE: ca. 1880 (made)
PLACE: United States (made)
MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES: Hammered silver, with mixed-metal decoration, mokume and hardstone finials

The design of this tea set was one of Tiffany’s most successful creations. Designed by Tiffany’s artistic director, Edward C. Moore, the Japanesque decoration contributed to the company’s success at the 1878 Exposition Universelle in Paris at which they won the grand prix for silverware. Siegfried Bing acknowledged Edward C. Moore as ‘one of the first to comprehend the real value of the treasures just emerging from the Orient’. Japanese metalworking techniques were used to decorate the teapot and sugar bowl with butterflies in mokume-gane, in which mixed metal laminates are stacked, applied to the metal surface and polished with various tools to resemble fine wood grain. Moore had drawn inspiration from the Japanese art objects flooding the Western market and began to produce designs that employed Japanese motifs as early as 1871. By 1877, he had developed a more mature style that was characterised by the use of mixed metals, organic shapes, ornament derived from nature, and hand-hammered surfaces with matte finishes, as can be seen on this example. On each piece, vines form the initial L for Mrs William Lent, to whom the set was presented as a Christmas present in 1880.