A circular seal box or ‘skippet’ engraved with the coat-of-arms of the Seven United Provinces
Of circular section, the flat and smooth independent cover beautifully engraved with the coat-of-arms of the Seven United…
Of compressed baluster shape, the lower part of the body fluted beneath a smooth ribbed band, the waisted upper section with smooth surface below further band work and rising to detachable chained cover with gadroon border surrounding a domed cover decorated in cut- card technique, below a reeded urn finial, with S-shaped spot, double scroll wood handle, marked on base.
Towards last quarter of the 17th century a new method to apply decorative ornaments on precious metals such as silver was developed in France, probably in Paris, the so-called cut-card technique.
Through improvement of the basic materials and tools it had become possible to work silver more precisely. Cut-out ornaments from very thin silver plate, often flower and plant motives, were soldered onto punched silver objects, to embellish them further. This new technique was often applied on objects that were used for poring or drinking coffee and tea. At the time both coffee and tea were exotic and expensive beverages, hence only affordable for the elite. The use of an expensive material such as silver and the decorating of an everyday object such as a teapot or coffee urn was therefore applicable.
Obviously, a silver teapot was more expensive than a porcelain one from China, but if one realises how much more expensive in comparison, than one can understand the pots in silver were only available for upper class market. At porcelain auctions held by the VOC an average porcelain blue and white teapot cost about 90 cents, however, in comparison, the material needed for an equally sized pot in silver cost more than 40 times as much. If one realises that the plate still had to be cast, shaped, soldered, worked, decorated and finished the prize could even rise to 80 times that of a porcelain example.
The present teapot, simple in shape, but finished in detail with a fine cut-card decoration, evokes the same fine play of light that had been present in some of the Amsterdam silver since the 1670s. In many ways the silversmith strived for contrasts, for which he needed all his skills. To underline these sharp contrasts between a roughened background surface and the engraved scrolling pattern, these were cut out of a thin plate of silver and consecutively soldered onto the body. This is in no way to be defined as ‘pronk’ but a very rare testimony of refined and personal taste.
In the Netherlands the cut-card technique was introduced by the Amsterdam silversmith Adam Loofs, who had studied and worked in Paris. The technique was called ‘Doorgebroken Zilver-Smidswerk’. In imitation of Loofs’ output the technique was also applied by his colleague, Hendrick van Pruyssen, in a toilet box from 1692, collection Amsterdam Museum, a coffee urn datable to 1695, now in the Martens Muller collection, Treasure room, Rijksmuseum Twenthe, Enschede, and a teapot attributed to Van Pruysen, dated 1696, collection Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, inv. n° BK-1967-1.
Private collection, the Netherlands
Hubert Vreeken et al., Goud en Zilver met Amsterdamse keuren, de verzameling van het Amsterdams Historisch Museum, Waanders, Zwolle, 2002, cat. n° 45 (toilet box) and 47 (tea box);
Jan Rudolph de Lorm, Dirk Jan Biemond, Amsterdams Goud en Zilver, Waanders Zwolle, 1999, cat. n° 30 (tea box, 1677), 30a/b, p. 74-75, Jan Folkema, prints of ‘Allerhande Voorbeelden van Doorgebroken Zilver-Smidswerk […], circa 1675 and cat. n°32, p. 77, tea pot attributed to Hendrick van Pruysen
Maker’s mark a griffon (Citroen 1019), Amsterdam, T=1705
Height 10,7 cm, Width 10,1 cm