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Two tea caddies, sugar box, and chest

1741-1742
Origin: England, London
OH; 4 3/4"; OL; 3 1/4"; OW; 2 3/8"
Silver (Sterling)
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 1937-153,2A-C
One of a pair of tea caddies. Tall rectangular tea caddy with cast shell-derived swing handle hinged in center of flat-topped, stepped cover on a chased diapered ground; sides and ends of cover chased with flowers; one end and sides of shoulder with grooved, fitted rim enabling cover to slide and be removed; rectangular body with short vertical rim above convex shoulders; sides and ends of body chased with borders of scrolls, shells, and flowers enclosing cartouches on sides and engraved coat of arms on one end; stepped molded base to accommodate sliding, removable baseplate.
Label:Tea canisters were often made in pairs with a larger and matching sugar box and fitted in a lined chest, usually of finished wood or covered with shagreen. George Washington, writing to Lafayette in 1783, ordered, along with numerous plated articles, "1 Tea chest, such as usually appertains to tea or breakfast tables, the inner part of which, to have three departments, two for tea's of different kinds, the other for Sugar." The term "tea caddy" is commonly used today for both the "tea canister" and the "tea chest," as they were generally referred to in the eighteenth century. George Hepplewhite, in his Cabinet-Maker and Upholsterer's Guide (London, 1788), illustrates three "Tea Chests" and three "Tea Caddies." His is one of the earliest uses of the latter term, by which he distinguished small tea chests with only one or two compartments from larger examples. Thomas Sheraton, in his Cabinet Dictionary (London, 1803), states that "This word ['Cady'] is now applied to various kinds of tea chests, of square, octagon and circular shapes," again alluding to the smaller type, sometimes lined with sheet lead and not fitted with separate canisters.

This set is handsomely flat-chased with rococo scroll, shell, and floral ornament framing cartouches on some of their sides. The protective chest is undoubtedly largely responsible for their crisp condition. The pieces exemplify the fine work produced in the shop of Elizabeth Godfrey, who deserves to be considered the preeminent woman silversmith of the eighteenth century. Twice she registered marks at Goldsmiths' Hall, first in 1731 after the death of her first husband, the silversmith Abraham Buteux, and again in 1741, the year this set was made, when she continued after his death the business of her second husband, Benjamin Godfrey, whom she had married in 1734. She maintained the firm until the mid-1760s.
Provenance:James Robinson Inc., New York. Acquired by CWF in 1937
Mark(s):Marked in relief: 1) "EG" in block letters with double-lobed device above and a bell flower below within a lozenge [Grimwade 1990 # 591]; 2) lepoard's head crowned; 3) lion passant; and 4) date letter "f" for 1741-42
Inscription(s):Arms of an unmarried lady of the Gregory family, Nottinghamshire and
Lincolnshire, engraved on front of body and on either end of sugar box and on one end of both tea canisters; arms erased at an early date from within chased cartouche on bodies of both tea canisters and beneath present arms on front of sugar box.