Henry Cole Tea Service; Oxford; FS

1846 (designed) 1846-1871 (made)

Cole, Henry (Sir)

Height: 15.7 cm, Width: 21.2 cm maximum, Depth: 14.7 cm maximum

2741&A-1901 CER

Earthenware teapot. British (Stoke-on-Trent), 1846-1871. Part of a service designed by Henry Cole for the Society of Arts in 1846 and manufactured by Minton's.

Rounded body, with cylindrical top. The short spout ends in a lion's head, the loop handle is in the form of a vine branch with leaves at the lower end and a goat's head at the top. On the cover there is a ram's head surrounded by vine-leaves.

Object Type This teapot is from a service designed by Henry Cole (1808-1882) in 1846, which was subsequently produced for his own Felix Summerly's Art Manufactures. It is an example of early Victorian design especially promoted by Cole, in which the decoration describes the function of the object. The teapot spout is in the form of a medieval water spout, and yet the forms, incongruously enough, were based on Cole's studies of Greek pottery in the British Museum. Historic Associations In response to the Society of Arts' offer, made in 1845, of a prize for designs for a tea service, Henry Cole (under the pseudonym Felix Summerly) produced a design that was executed by Minton. This won a silver medal in the competition held in 1846 and the experience led Cole to believe that it would 'promote public taste' if well-known painters and sculptors could be persuaded to produce designs for manufactured articles for everyday use. Accordingly, in 1847 he founded 'Summerly's Art Manufactures', which lasted for about three years, until Cole's preoccupation with the Great Exhibition of 1851 brought it to an end. However, for some years afterwards individual firms continued to produce objects originally made for Summerly's Art Manufactures. Design In 1847 Henry Cole noted that 'RR [Richard Redgrave] and Bell [John Bell] thought Artists ought not to design for Manufacturers: apart from Art Manufactures'. But later Redgrave himself observed that fine artists were actually to blame for committing the prime error, which was 'rather to construct ornament than ornament construction'. The separate parts of the tea service designed by Cole himself remained in production for some years, the cup especially. It was given the factory code of FS (for Felix Summerly) and became a Minton standard. It continued to be made into the 20th century, often decorated with patterns. People Henry Cole was a close friend of Herbert Minton and persuaded him to make the service he had designed to enter the Society of Arts' competition.

Given by the Society of Arts in 1871. Transferred from the Museum of Practical Geology, Jermyn Street. Designed by Sir Henry Cole (born in Bath, 1802, died in London, 1882) for Felix Summerly's Art Manufactures; made by Minton & Co., Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire Historical significance: Henry Cole, first director of the South Kensington Museum and an early campaigner for the improvement of British Design, designed the tea service under the assumed name of Felix Summerly. Cole's aim was 'to obtain as much beauty and ornament as is comensurate with cheapness'. The design was based upon historical precedents combined with a concern for manufacturing techniques and utility. Cole paid particular attention to the application of ornament so that it did not interfere with the simplicity of outline of his design. The handles, in the form of vines, were derived from exmples of Greek earthenware in the British Museum, this form of ornament was simple and cheap to produce and did not in any way inhibit the function of the object. The service was awarded a silver medal by the Society of Arts, admired by the Prince Consort and sold in large numbers. This success encouraged Cole to found Summerly's Art Manufactures in order to commission designs for functional and attractive household objects from well-known artists for commercial production.

Transferred from the Museum of Practical Geology, Jermyn Street

Location: British Galleries, room 122g, case 2

View this object on the V&A website