During the 17th and 18th centuries, the art and culture of China and Japan was extremely fashionable in Europe. European designers and craftsmen imitated these designs and created fanciful interpretations of the East, known as chinoiserie. Chinoiserie scenes often feature figures in Chinese clothing and fantastical landscapes and pagodas, which was deemed especially appropriate decoration for teawares on account of tea’s Chinese origin.
The decoration on this teapot combines European-style moulded ‘masks’ and chinoiserie figures, painted in black enamel by the German brothers Bartolomäus and Abraham Seuter. They specialised in painting figurative chinoiserie scenes, which were commonly drawn from contemporary engravings found in travel books on Asia. Based in Augsburg, the Seuter brothers were Hausmaler, or house painters, who purchased undecorated porcelain which they then painted in their workshop. Initially, they decorated plain tin-glazed ceramics from the Bayreuth and Nuremberg manufactories, but by 1729 their workshops were painting onto Meissen porcelain using gold, silver and polychrome enamels. The decoration they employed included gilt silhouette chinoiseries, flowers, scenes after the French painter Watteau, and Schwarzlot (black enamel decoration) which was in high demand amongst the European aristocracy and which can be seen on this teapot.