Teacup and saucer

Designed by Karl L. H. Müller American
Manufactured by Union Porcelain Works American

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 774

Made as a prototype for a porcelain service exhibited at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition, this tea set depicts troubling imagery on the finials of the teapot and sugar bowl in the form of heads of an Asian and a Black man. While designer Karl Muller’s intent was undoubtedly to present well-known iconography for tea and sugar—a goat is also depicted on the handle of the creamer—the representations reveal the pervasiveness of racist thought in 19th-century America. The Black head also underscores how the commodity of sugar was inextricably linked to the exploitation of enslaved labor, especially in the Atlantic World.

Teacup and saucer, Designed by Karl L. H. Müller (1820–1887), Porcelain, American

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