Dimensions: 4 3/4 × 3 1/2 in. diameter (12.1 × 8.9 cm)
Marks: In underglaze blue - This symbol is said to be an alchemy sign for the Four Elements, and was used at Nymphenburg l763-l767 (Honey, p462). Impressed mark - shield with diamond lozenges, the Nymphenburg mark. Incised marks - directly to right of shield mark.
Classification: Decorative Arts, Ceramics
Credit Line: Gift of Ann and Henry Brunnier. In the Ann and Henry Brunnier Collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.
The Nymphenburg Porcelain Factory near Munich was established in 1747 when Franz Ignaz Niedermayer successfully made porcelain under patronage of the Elector Maximilian III Josef. The factory continued to be successful throughout the Seven Years War, suffering only a slight slump during the last quarter of the eighteenth century, due to succession and English competition.
Although the factory was known for its figurines rather than tablewares, this tea caddy is an extremely charming and peculiar example of Nymphenburg porcelain. The entire surface is decorated in a "fond bois," or wood grain pattern, only to be interrupted by two panels depicting rural landscapes painted in violet enamel. The two panels have irregular borders and are cleverly treated to appear as pieces of paper nailed to wood, complete with shadows cast by loose edges. Although the tea caddy was a single component of many in the tea service, it was extremely important since it held and protected the tea, the essence of the tea ceremony. The diminutive size of the container directly reflects the preciousness of its contents.