By the late 17th century, tea-drinking had become a refined social custom amongst the Dutch upper-classes. Teapots, canisters, tea bowls and saucers contributed to the vast array of fashionable porcelain wares that were reaching Europe from China and Japan via the Dutch East India Company’s trading ships. Although the first porcelain teawares exported to Europe were almost exclusively blue and white, later developments in enamel colours and techniques, along with specific demands from wealthy Europeans, led to increasingly personalised porcelain. To appeal to Western taste, landscapes, historical, mythological and political events were copied from European copper-plate engravings obtained from Jesuit missionaries.
This teapot is painted with the biblical scene of Adam and Eve sharing the forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden, while the coiled snake who tempted Eve watches from a tree. Religious subject matter of this kind was commissioned on a large scale from the 1730s to convey personal convictions and ideals. Although most scenes can be traced to an original copper-plate engraving, this particular depiction of Adam and Eve is rare and the exact source is unknown. The grey-black enamel line painting is typical of ‘grisaille’ export porcelain and was likely adopted by Chinese painters to best imitate the engravings they copied from.