Before large-scale production of white porcelain was possible, the German porcelain manufactory Meissen created red and brown vessels known as ‘Böttger stoneware’, named after the German alchemist J.F. Böttger who went on to discover the secret to porcelain’s formula and manufacture. This reddish stoneware was made with iron-rich clays from Saxony in imitation of the equally valued Chinese Yixing teawares, and deemed especially suitable for tea due to its density and heat resistance.
This Böttger stoneware teapot belonged to the celebrated Italian castrato singer, Francesco Bernardi, also known as Il Senesino (1686-1758). He was engaged by Handel as the lead male singer of the Royal Academy of Music, but their stormy relationship caused him to defect to a rival Opera of the Nobility after almost 13 years of collaboration. It is likely that Il Senesino received this teapot in 1717, when he sang in Lotti’s Giove in Argo in Dresden. The incised and polished strapwork on this teapot’s surface show the variety of finishes which were used on Böttger stoneware. This would have been carried out by skilled glass cutters and polishers from Bohemia (Czech Republic), as Meissen’s mastery of colourful enamels was not yet formalised.