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Matthew Boulton's Tea Vase

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Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery

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Basic Information

Accession Number:1988M204
Collection:Applied Art - Silver
Date:1775 - 1776

Maker Information

Manufacturer:Boulton & Fothergill - View history


This tea vase is engraved with Matthew Boulton's own coat-of-arms and is from his personal collection of Sheffield plate. Unlike other tea urns or tea vases where their purpose is obvious, here the urn appears to be a decorative urn rather than functional object. By turning one of its handles, the tap is opened and the tea pours from the handle base. The coat-or-arms is a variation on the coat-of-arms granted to Boulton when he was made High Sheriff of Staffordshire. There is a deliberate error in the arms, what should be a bolt or arrow, appears as an anchor. The anchor is the device used by Birmingham as its official hallmark. The classical figure on the opposite side of the tea vase has been variously identified as Minerva, Goddess of Wisdom, War and the Liberal arts. Alternatively she may be Hygeia, Goddess of Health, a possible reference to the supposed health-giving properties of tea.

Purchased with the aid of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the MGC/VandA Museum Purchase Grant Fund, the National Art Collections Fund (Eugene Cremetti Fund), The Douglas Turner Trust, The John Feeney Charitable Trust, Edward Cadbury Charitable Trust, William A Cadbury Charitable Trust, Birmingham Common Good Trust, The Eric W Vincent Trust Fund, and The Stephen and Dorothy Lloyd Charity.

Further Information

Production Period:18th century
Medium:Sterling silver, with wood.
Place of Origin:Birmingham, England


Height:480 mm
Diameter:203 mm