ARTIST / MAKER: Philippe Lamotte (maker)
DATE: 1758-59 (made)
PLACE: Dunkirk (made) France
MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES: Silver, wooden handle

Like the Dutch, who first introduced tea to France in the 1640s, the French initially regarded tea as an exotic beverage to be enjoyed for its medicinal properties. Interest in drinking tea, coffee and chocolate as a mark of respectability and refinement was incited under the reign of King Louis XIV (1638-1715) at the Royal Court of Versailles. Although coffee and chocolate were to become more popular across all levels of French society in the late 18th and 19th centuries, tea-drinking was nevertheless appreciated among members of the aristocratic and upper classes, creating a demand for appropriately refined teawares.

Silver pieces with Dunkirk marks are rare and little is known about Philippe Lamotte the silversmith, with only a few known pieces by him surviving in collections today. Due to the very strict guild system implemented in France, the silver output maintained its reputation of very high quality. To finance the numerous wars during the 17th and 18th centuries, silver wares were often melted down, and very few silverwares survive from this period as a result. The possibility of their destruction may account for the relatively restrained decoration on these pieces, with more sculptural forms compensating for the limited decoration.