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Girl With A Tray By Philip Mercier 1750

Girl with a Tray by Philip Mercier 1750

Philip Mercier (1689-1760)

Is it a coffee pot?

Detail: Tray, flowered cup, coffee pot, ladies gown, cloth cap, serving girl

This Post Has 9 Comments
  1. Based on the date, it could also be a chocolate pot. Thanks for posting all these wonderful pictures to this blog. I really do enjoy seeing them pop up in my email.

  2. My first thought is yes, it is a coffee pot. Generally for this date tea pots were on the small side and round in body. Also, those cups are what were referred to as coffee cans. Strange name for them in my book, but in my research that is what they were referred to. It is neat to see the lump sugar, also. Thanks for posting.

  3. I work for the Cit y of Bowie Museums, in Bowie, MD. We are privileged to own four paintings by M. Mercier. This lady is a new one on me. Where is she?

  4. Not a teapot. They are ceramic. Don’t think I’ve ever seen a perior one made from metal. Now, 10 will show up on my doorstep!!!!! I’ll put my $$ on the coffee pot. Chocolate pots are usually sort of tall, but wide at bottom and narrower at top. There is also a “movable” finial in the top of them for stirring what was very thick chocolate. This one could be movable, but my money is still on the coffee pot. That being said…the cups could be for chocolate or coffee. Tea c ups don’t have handles for a while yet.

    And, on another “eyeball it” note…notice t hat the print on the cups is echoed in her dress! Mercier was a Frenchman raised in Germany and transplanted to England. His girls always look very French in t heir faces. The four paintings we own are called “The Seasons,” two girls, one young boy and an old grandfather (winter). The girls-spring and summer- are different girls, b ut have the same facial characteristics.

    1. No, while it was more common for a teapot to be imported Asian porcelain (commonly referred to in today’s antiques market as “Export Porcelain”), there are absolutely period examples of silver teapots. I have personally handled several and seen others in museums (e.g. Hurd’s teapot in the Cleveland Museum of Art).

      The reason you probably haven’t seen one is that they are rare compared to coffee pots, as coffee was significantly cheaper than tea in the 17th and 18th centuries; tea and chocolate were prestige beverages. Even the English middle class was more likely to drink coffee than tea in that period (If I can find my source I shall post it; it was a very interesting read). Consequently there are a fair number of authentic 18th-century English silver coffee pots on the antiques market these days, whilst teapots are rarely found and tend to run between two and three times the price of a nice early silver coffee pot these days.

  5. I agree that it looks like a chocolate pot, and the cups are likely chocolate cups. Normally coffee pots have long spouts that begin nearer to the bottom of the pot while chocolate pots (and wine ewers) have short spouts at the very top. Chocolate pots are extremely rare in England; the pot (whether coffee or chocolate) in this painting appears to be a French model. The “can” cups I find interesting because they look more like models from the 1790s or so.

    Regarding the cups, I came across a discussion of a ships’ manifests from the period that referred to the differences in Chinese Export Porcelain drinkware as follows: small bowls were for tea (which makes sense because the teapots were also quite small), the somewhat larger bowls were for coffee, and the cups with handles were for chocolate. If I can find that source I’ll post it as well; it was full of interesting information. One of the points it made was the awkwardness of packing cups with handles; they were consequently more expensive to buy in Europe because fewer could be fit into a crate.

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