This coffee pot is one of the largest works surviving by Christian Hillan, a rare maker who is associated with the group of foreign-trained craftsmen in the circle of Paul de Lamerie. Along with the German immigrant James Shruder, the Lige-born Nicolas Sprimont and the French Huguenot Paul Crespin, Hillan brought Continental-inspired rococo fashion to the Lamerie group. Until 1742 Hillan occupied premises in Compton Street, Soho, next door to Sprimont, and it is likely that he did work for, or supplied silver to, the Lamerie group (see Christopher Hartop, The Huguenot Legacy, English Silver 1680-1760 from the Alan and Simone Harman Collection, 1996, p. 304, for a coffee jug by Hillan with scenic rather than sculptural decoration). It is not certain whether Hillan's origins were German or Scandinavian.
The present coffee pot has motifs that are closely related to the published engravings of Caspar Gottlieb Eisler of Nuremberg, which in turn owe a debt to the designs of Juste-Aurle Meissonnier, one of the earliest and most influential proponents of the rococo style. The German interpretation of this essentially French style is characterized by a boldness of outline, seen in the shells and scrolls of both the Eisler print and this coffee pot, and the fan-like, "bat-wing" motif which surmounts the shell on the jug. Interestingly, German influences can be seen in the designs of a French migre to London, Hubert Franois Gravelot, who was perhaps the most important promoter of the rococo style in England during his stay there between 1733 and 1745. George Vertue says that Gravelot designed for silversmiths but, apart from a watercolor design for ornament in the Victoria and Albert Museum, which also has "bat's wing" rocaille and a matted background very similar to the decoration on this coffee jug, virtually nothing remains to document Gravelot's involvement in silver design during the period (see Mark Girouard, "Coffee at Slaughter's?," Country Life, 13 and 27 January and 3 February, 1966). Based on this design, it is tempting to suggest Gravelot as the designer of this pot and to see Hillan as part of the group of craftsmen, painters and designers who formed part of the group centered around the St. Martin's Lane Academy. Certainly the highly-developed rococo decoration on this coffee pot places it at the forefront of rococo silver design in England, even among the silversmiths of the Lamerie group.