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Antique Boxes in English Society
1760 -1900
Tea Caddies and Tea
Tea Caddies and Tea



A Fine Regency Penwork Three Compartment  Tea Caddy circa 1815
A fine Regency three compartment Penwork Tea caddy decorated all over with exotic penwork scenes on a sycamore ground . Circa 1815. 
The caddy is in very good original condition.  It even has a working lock and key.

"Penwork" is sometimes referred to as "pen and ink".

It measures 12.5 inches wide  by 6 inches deep and it is 7.75 inches  tall including feet: 32 cm  wide  by 15 cm deep and it is 20 cm  tall including feet

 Front view:  The fantastical  scenes are of oriental figures in gardens with pavilions, bridges, rivers, boats,  birds, serpents  and exotic trees. 

These Chinoiserie scenes were inspired by tales of the gardens of the Hong merchants which British traders and diplomats were allowed to visit whilst in Canton. Such scenes found their way into prints and books as well as diaries and letters of the period.

 Penwork and painted caddies are very rare.


End views: the caddy retains its original heavy embossed gilt brass handles.

 Unusually even the feet are decorated with penwork


The back of the caddy is decorated with buildings figures and boats all with fluent disregard for the restrictions of perspective.  
There is a wealth of images: giant insects compete with giant birds!


The shaped top is decorated with a perfusion of  stylized foliage. 
The pyramided shape is inspired by the images  and knowledge which were currently coming from Egypt


The inside is as decorated as the outside. It contains two lift out canisters which are decorated with further scenes and which retain some of the original lead lining.

 The central compartment is painted to match the colour of the rest of the caddy. 

The inside of the lid has yet another exotic scene. The bowl well is lined in original red paper.

Even the sides of the canisters are decorated.


The inside of the lid has one of the most fantastical compositions: a dragon headed boat, a sail ship and a sedan chair


The dragon headed boat.


A sedan chair shaped almost organically This method of transport definitely beats the bus.

 For the most part this caddy retains its original varnish; there is a loss in the center of the top probably caused by someone closing the caddy with liquid in the bowl. Note the shading.


The complexity of the caddy construction can be seen here. The compartment for the canister is lined with charcoal colored felt, which has helped to protect the the penwork on the sides of the canisters. 

The facings are a dark brown colour.


Detail of the penwork scenes on the lids of the two canisters


The caddy stands on ball feet which are also decorated with penwork. These are in very good condition. 
The bowl like the caddy is superb. 

This bowl is the original heavy hand  blown and cut crystal.

It  is larger than usual. and is decorated with both cutting and engraving.




For the historical context of this caddy read the relevant part of Antigone's Online Antique Box Book. If you click here you will go there.

We are preparing a highly illustrated book on Antique Boxes  for publication next year by Schiffer Books USA. This box has been photographed with a view to including the pictures.


  © 2000 Antigone Clarke and Joseph O'Kelly