This teapot is painted with grisaille ornament, a decorative style of Chinese export porcelain that was in high demand among 18th century wealthy Europeans. En grisaille refers to a style of monochromatic painting in shades of grey, used especially for the representation of relief sculpture or preparatory underpainting. A technique used in Europe since the 12th century, it was adopted by Chinese ceramic painters around 1730. To appeal to Western taste, the painters would copy scenes from European engravings and copper plate prints, and themes for these wares were often mythological or taken from classical antiquity.
The scene on this teapot derives from a design known as the Valentine pattern, originally drawn by a Royal Navy officer, Lieutenant Piercey Brett (1709-1781). In 1743, Brett commissioned a large porcelain service with his own drawings as a wedding gift to his captain, Commodore George Anson (1697-1762). Brett was the official draughtsman onboard the ships commanded by Anson between 1740-1744. Many of Brett’s drawings were used to illustrate ‘A Voyage Around the World’, a lavish book recording Anson’s marine travels, published in London in 1748. The Valentine pattern combines elements from the voyages with pastoral and exotic emblems of love. A shepherd’s crook and shepherdess’s hat lie on the ground beside a reclining Chinese dignitary. To the left of him is an ‘altar of love’ and a Breadfruit tree, first seen by Brett on Tinian Island.