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Child's Tea Set

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Artifact Description

The especially unique one-of-a-kind artifacts recovered from the SS Republic wreck site include a rare and virtually intact child's tea set consisting of a teapot accompanied by four cups and saucers, a waste bowl, a sugar bowl and creamer. The sugar bowl and teapot are missing their lids. Such sets of the era were intended not only as toys, but also to teach young girls how to serve tea properly. Bearing several complementary motifs, the assemblage features a neoclassical decorative theme which had been popular in the arts for many years, prompted by the 18th-century archaeological discoveries of the buried Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum in Italy (the excavations of which began in 1738 and 1748, respectively). The use of black figures dressed in classical garb against a red background is reminiscent of Classical Greek vases. The decorations were applied to the plates and vessels with transfer prints much like a decal, and then the pieces were fired to make the decoration permanent.

Lacking maker's marks, the pottery that produced the tea set remains unidentified. However it may be the product of Great Britain's Staffordshire District, with potters such as Josiah Wedgwood of Burlsem caught up in the passion for Greek, Etruscan, and Roman culture that swept England beginning in the later 18th century.


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