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Rare Victorian teapot, designed by Christopher Dresser for Elkington and Co., Birmingham, 1885-86

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Published: 9 May 2015

Truth, Beauty & Power | The Influential Design of Christopher Dresser

Freeman's is pleased to be offering a rare Victorian teapot by influential designer Christopher Dresser in our 20 May auction of Silver & Objets de Vertu.

Scottish born designer Christopher Dresser (1834-1904) is remembered for his significant influence on the Aesthetic movement and as a contributor and revolutionary in the field of industrial design.  He was an importer, retailer, and educator in subjects spanning botany to industrial production and created designs for many manufacturers in France, Great Britain, and the United States. Dresser's motto was "Truth, Beauty and Power," an elegant sentiment that embodied his desire to bring art to the masses through the marriage of beauty and function.

Dresser was greatly inspired by the training in botany he received while at the Government School of Design at Somerset House in London and later during his travels through Japan at the behest of the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria & Albert Museum).

While en route to Japan, Dresser stopped in Philadelphia to attend the 1876 Centennial Exposition. It was during that time he delivered a series of lectures at the Philadelphia Museum and School of Industrial Art (which later split into the two institutions of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the University of the Arts). He also supervised the manufacture of several wallpaper designs created for Wilson & Fenimore's Paper Hanging Manufactory and was commissioned by friend and patron Louis Comfort Tiffany to collect and purchase works of art while in Japan on behalf of Tiffany & Co.

In addition to being a designer, Dresser was also a published author and wrote many books on design and decor, including The Art of Decorative Design (1862), The Development of Ornamental Art in the International Exhibition (1862), and Principles of Design (1873).

Rare Victorian teapot, designed by Christopher Dresser for Elkington and Co., Birmingham, 1885-86 (hallmark detail)The teapot being offered this May is one of the designs Dresser produced for Elkington & Co. around 1885. Although he had worked for the firm from the late 1860's, his designs at this time were among the most significant of his career. This teapot with its innovative geometric form and simple decoration of lines and dots is in stark contrast to the highly decorative Rococo revival style which dominated silverware at the time. An almost identical teapot is held at the British Museum in London (Registration no. 1980,1112.1). Estimated at $3,000-5,000, the teapot  has a spherical form body with engraved band of geometrical and linear design with similar engraving to handle and spout, the hinged cover with radiating sun motif, the underside with hallmarks, pattern number "16678", registration number "Rd. 22365," and engraved "Elkington & Co."

Exceeeding pre-auction estimates, this teapot sold for $40,000 at the 20 May 2015 auction Silver & Objets de Vertu

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