Two shipwreck teapots

DATE: 1654 - 1722 (made)
PLACE: China (made)
MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES: Porcelain with underglaze enamels (clear glaze removed by saltwater)

Prior to the mid-17th century, tea was a mysterious and exotic drink unknown to Europeans. However once Dutch and Portuguese merchants began to import black and green tea into Europe from their trading bases in Macao, tea drinking quickly became established in the West among the upper classes. The need for vessels with which to make and serve this new beverage fuelled the demand for Chinese porcelain which was shipped to Europe alongside tea and other goods. Portugal was the first European country to receive imported tea and teawares from China and Japan, prior to Holland and Britain. This pair of teapots were discovered on a shipwreck near to the port of Porto in Portugal, which was historically one of the largest receiving ports for the importation of tea from Asia. The salt water has removed their glaze and remnants of barnacles can still be seen on the interior. They are decorated with a traditional landscape scene with willow plants and a rider on the back of a water buffalo.