Here is a rare and intricately molded teapot made at one of the Staffordshire potteries in the middle of the eighteenth century. It has a diamond-shaped body, each side with a central shell in a recessed square, surrounded by several bands, all on a stepped pedestal foot. At opposite corners, the spout is molded as a serpent and the handle as a scaly dragon with a handmade slit for its mouth and a fancy tail. The finial shows a kylin, a Chinese lion, and this lion has one very unusual detail—the rear legs are raised and thrust out. I can find no other teapot of this type with such a finial. Normally the legs are tucked neatly under the lion. This is the kind of very distinctive detail that would go a long way toward identifying the maker of the pot, if a matching piece could be found in an archaeological dig. However, there were about 150 potters making salt-glazed wares in Staffordshire, and few of their sites have been excavated. Maybe one day the maker will be uncovered. In the meantime, we can appreciate the unique and innovative approach of the designer of this teapot. (If anyone knows of a similar kylin finial with legs outstretched, please let me know. My research turned up none.) The Victoria and Albert Museum has an almost identical teapot, and an identical teapot, except for the finial, is illustrated on page 50 of “British Teapots and Tea Drinking” by Robin Emmerson, Commenting on the illustrated teapot, Emmerson quotes Walton’s opinion that this specific combination of fancifully molded handle and widely gaping lion’s mouth could likely be firmly associated with one particular factory, as yet unknown. Because of the quality and the inventive high style of the teapot, some would suggest the factory of John and Thomas Wedgwood. Of course, there were about 150 potters making similar salt-glazed wares in Staffordshire at this period, and few of their sites have been excavated. And when one maker went out of business, his molds could have been sold to another potter—so the situation is complicated. Condition is good, with the kind of normal repairs that are found with this kind of very thin and fragile teapot. The rim of the pot has been repainted, so some unknown repair (to chips or cracks?) was made there. The bottom jaw of the spout has several small chips but is basically intact—the lower jaw didn’t jut out as far as you might expect. The outside of the lid is repainted, along with the handle, so some unknown repairs were made there. It is five and one-quarter inches high.
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