Whiting Aesthetic Movement Sterling Silver and Mixed-Metal Tête-à-tête Tea Service, 1881
Based on the form of ancient traditional Japanese teapots, this small service features exquisite surfaces of ferns spreading in various directions creating wonderful backdrops for the applied decorations. This is the first tête-à-tête tea service we've had that consists of four pieces instead of the standard three.
The teapot, with its swing handle and removable cover, is decorated on both sides with applied branches with leaves and copper berries. This style of teapot is very rarely seen in American silver. Typically, this form is the top of a hot water or toddy kettle in American silver.
The creamer, sugar bowl, and waste bowl are equally charming, with stunning appliques mimicking the design on the teapot. The interiors of these pieces display a lovely gilt surface.
Underneath the teapot is engraved 'J.P.B. and I. De F./ from the Class/ of Eighteen Hundred and / Sixty Four/ Oct. 27, 1881.' The other three pieces are engraved 'J.P.B. and I. De F.'
Tête-à-tête tea services are the rarest of the form. While most tea drinking was a social activity during the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, the tête-à-tête service was meant for the very personal service of tea with only one other, with all the accompanying personal intimacies. Although this service is small enough, it may be for only one.
This beautiful tea service is marked underneath with Whiting's trademark, "STERLING", and the model numbers "445" and "445D." The teapot measures 5.25 inches to the top of the handle. Together, the pieces weigh 27.70 troy ounces and are in excellent antique condition.
Gorham Archives image of the Whiting set courtesy of the John Hay Library, Brown University.
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