Tea set

DATE: 1879 (made)
PLACE: England (made)
MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES: Parcel-gilt and engraved silver; porcelain painted with enamels and gilded

Birmingham metalworkers Elkington & Co., was one of the earliest English firms producing objects that took inspiration from Japanese art in the 19th century. The Japanesque style flourished throughout the European and American arts and culture in the later half of the 19th century as a result of dynastic change in Japan which saw the country’s borders open to trade in 1854 after a 200 year closure, permitting an expanded trade in art and design objects such as screens, ceramics, textiles and prints.

The set, known as a ‘tete-a-tete’ as it serves just two people, was gifted by David Laidlaw to his daughter Hannah and son-in-law Robert Murdoch on the occasion of their 25th wedding anniversary as denoted by a commemorative inscription on the base of the tray. The fan-shaped tray and decorative design of ducks, herons and prunus blossoms, demonstrate the influence of Japanese arts on Western design.