Barthélemy Decourchelle French

Not on view

With the importation into Europe of tea from the Far East, coffee from the near East, and chocolate from the Americas, special vessels for the brewing and serving of these new beverages were required. At first all three of these beverages were regarded as medicinal which limited their popularity and only gradually did these drinks gain acceptance in the home. Tea drinking was introduced in France toward the end of the seventeenth century. By 1687 silver pots for the serving of tea are listed in the inventory of Louis XIV’s plate. Very few such early French teapots are known to survive other than one marked by the silversmith I.C., Paris of 1699/1700, also in the Met’s collection (48.187.78) In fact, silver teapots are not as common in France as compared to Great Britain, and those that exist are frequently made in Lille and its surroundings.

Mrs. Wentworth acquired several mid-eighteenth-century French teapots, such as this one by the silversmith Barthélemy Decourchelle who was active in Lille. The pear-shaped body is enlivened by a series of flat panels alternating with convex moldings that are continued on the cover. The slender spout terminates in a bird’s head. A series of small holes on the inside at the base of the spout serves as a strainer to keep the tea leaves from blocking the spout. Since tea was served hot, the pot had to be constructed so that it would not be too hot to pour, and most vessels were therefore supplied with a wooden handle. Here the ebony handle is attached with two threaded cylinders. In addition, the lid is provided with an ebony knob.

Daughter of one of the founders of the Weyerhaeuser Timber Company, Catherine D. Wentworth (1865–1948) was an art student and painter who lived in France for thirty years. She became one of the most important American collectors of eighteenth-century French silver and on her death in 1948 bequeathed part of her significant collection of silver, gold boxes, French furniture, and textiles to the Metropolitan Museum. The collection is particularly strong in domestic silver as illustrated by this teapot.

Teapot, Barthélemy Decourchelle (French, active Lille, master 1726, active 1761), Silver; ebony, French, Lille

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