The series of electroplated teapots designed by Christopher Dresser and made by James Dixon & Sons in 1879 rank among the great moments of the Aesthetic movement – and 19th century art as a whole.
But, for reasons of cost and a
conservative audience, these six radical prototypes never made it
into general production. Some of the surviving designs, pictured
together in a famous photograph of the time, are thought to be
one-offs. All are very rare.
Only a handful of examples of teapot
model 2275, distinctive for its low drum-shaped body, simple
angular spout and elongated ebony handle, are recorded. The example
in the collection of the National Museum of Scotland is that sold
at Phillips in March 1994 for £60,000, a price that saw another
appear on the market the following year.
So there was a moment of incredulity
when James Grinter, managing director of Reeman
Dansie in Colchester, found himself staring at this
example among a sundry lot of electroplate on an Edwardian
sideboard during a routine house clearance visit in
The property was located only a mile
away from Frinton-on-Sea, where Mr Grinter had discovered the
Douglas Shepherd collection of Arts & Crafts silver sold in
February for £125,000.
The teapot was fully marked to the
base with both the facsimile C.W. Dresser signature in a cartouche,
the hallmarks for James Dixon & Sons and the pattern number
Unfortunately it had been dropped
sometime in its life (the front spout area is visibly compressed
and the semi-circular hinged lid no longer shuts completely), but
the estimate had been set conservatively at £2000-5000.
It sold for £19,000.
The discovery of another model 2275 comes
just a month or so since Woolley & Wallis of Salisbury sold an
electroplated silver kettle that ranks among Christopher
Dresser's earliest provable designs in the medium.
Although not manufactured until 1884,
the kettle's pattern number 10272 dates the design to 1866-67 and
contemporary with the 1865 copy of The Building News which
records Elkington's first experiments with Dr Dresser's
electroplated silver designs.
The possibly unique teapot, sourced
from a private collection, sold at the lower end of its
£15,000-20,000 estimate on June 19.