‘Peter the Great in Zaandam’ Teapot

DATE: 1736-1795 (made)
PLACE: China (made)
MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES: Porcelain painted in overglaze enamels and gilt

This Chinese export teapot was made in China during the Qianlong period (1735-1796) and depicts The Tsar Peter the Great in Zaandam, the Netherlands. Peter the Great attempted to Westernise Russia by linking it with Europe through the Baltic and in order to learn about the continent, he travelled through Europe incognito under the name of Peter Mikhailov. Arriving in Amsterdam during the summer of 1697, he attempted to work in the shipyards in the small port of Zaandam where he befriended a local blacksmith and craftsman named Gerrit Kist, who worked for the Tsar in Moscow. Kist’s house where he resided, built in 1632 in Zaandam, is depicted on the left hand side of the teapot. In 1717 Tsar Peter returned to Holland and to Zaandam to study naval architecture. The knowledge he gained prompted a period of great modernisation and growth in Russia. Many Chinese porcelain plates were produced with similar scenes, all of which appear to come from the same engraving. Minute people are present in the decorative scheme to emphasise Peter’s great height. The colour palette used to reproduce the scene on this teapot is known as famille rose, a name given to Chinese export wares decorated with rose-coloured enamels. The term was introduced by French art historian Albert Jacquemart (1808-1875) to describe objects decorated in this way.