Among the earliest known Chinese export silver teapots is a small group made for import into England in the late 17th century. One example, also six-sided with panels of relief decoration, was actually struck with London hallmarks in 1682, in compliance with the law that foreign silver should be marked at Goldsmiths' Hall before it could be sold in England (H.A. Crosby Forbes, J. Kernan, and R. Wilkins, Chinese Export Silver, 1975, p. 52, fig. 22; sold Christie's, New York, April 18, 1989, lot 589). All other known examples with English histories are unmarked, presumably to avoid paying duty.
The present teapot takes its form from porcelain and bronze examples, which are much more common than models in silver. The body shape of the mid-late Kangxi period is similar to that of a ginger jar (see the porcelain teapot of similar design, illustrated here). Bamboo-form handles were introduced in Chinese teapots as early as the Song period, and grew in popularity in the Ming dynasty; two porcelain teapots with stylized bamboo handles from the Yung-lo reign (1403-1424) were exhibited at the National Palace Museum in Taipei in 2002 (see Empty Vessels, Replenished Minds: The Culture, Practice, and Art of Tea, figs. 34 and 35, pp. 56-57).
The present teapot, with its ginger-jar shape, bamboo spout and handle, and openwork foliate finial, is very closely related to a silver example in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum (M.69-1955). Interestingly, their English owners added insulating to each teapot; the handle of the V&A example was wrapped in raffia, and handle of the present example was fitted with ivory insulators in the 18th or 19th century. The V&A teapot is illustrated in the exhibition catalogue, Anna Jackson and Amin Jaffer, eds., Encounters: The Meeting of Asia and Europe 1500-1800, 2004, fig. 1.8 (incorrectly dated), p.6.
First Caption: Teapot of Hexagonal Shape Decorated with Wucai Enamels on the Biscuit
Qing Kangxi Period (Circa 1700)
Hong Kong Museum of Art Collection
Second Caption: Base engraved with English scratch weight