About this artwork
Made by James Hadley, the preeminent modeler at the Royal Worcester Porcelain Factory, this teapot references the Aesthetic Movement that was fashionable in the late 19th century. The teapot partly capitalized on the success of W. S. Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan’s operetta Patience, a satire of the Aesthetic Movement that was first performed in 1881, the year the vessel was produced. Patience prominently featured a poet called Bunthorne, a caricature of writer and aesthete Oscar Wilde. Like Wilde, disciples of the Aesthetic Movement had specific ideas about the most beautiful flowers (sunflowers and calla lilies) and colors (purple), and they subscribed to the notion that by surrounding oneself with beautiful objects one would become beautiful.On the base of the teapot appear the words Fearful Consequences Through the Laws of Natural Selection & Evolution of Living up to One’s Teapot—an allusion to something Oscar Wilde said while he was a student at Oxford University in England: “I find it harder and harder every day to live up to my blue china.” The teapot’s base is a double-edged satire, mocking Wilde’s overwrought attention to all things aesthetic, as well as Darwin’s newly introduced theory of natural selection, which was scoffed at for its implication that humans descended from apes. Taking Wilde’s quip to its logical conclusion, the young man and woman on the teapot have so successfully lived up to their china that they have literally morphed into a teapot.
Currently Off View
- European Decorative Art
- Worcester Royal Porcelain Company
- Glazed and enameled Parian ware
- 15.9 × 16.5 × 7.6 cm (6 1/4 × 6 1/2 × 3 in.)
- Eloise W. Martin Acquisition Fund; restricted gift of Maureen Savaiano, Jamie Maloney, Mr. and Mrs. James Knox, and Mr. and Mrs. Terry Perucca