Tureen and cover in the form of a cauliflower in soft-paste porcelain and painted with enamels, Chelsea Porcelain factory, Chelsea, ca. 1755
Height: 12 cm, Width: 12 cm
The Magic Eye (The Holburne Museum of Art 21/10/1989-10/12/1989)
British Galleries, room 118a
Covered dishes in the form of vegetables were probably made to serve dessert rather than savoury foods. Cauliflower tureens are mentioned in the Chelsea sale catalogue of 1755. [27/03/2003]
The glaze appears to be slightly tin-glazed, suggesting a date before 1756
The tureen was probably for serving stewed fruit or other sweet foodstuffs during the dessert course. A sale of Chelsea wares held in 1755 included six pairs of these tureens. Another of the following year included 33 pairs in both large and smaller sizes. Both had leaf-shaped underdishes, and in one instance the tureens were specified as being for the dessert. The dessert was the final stage of a grand dinner. During the 18th century it was the course on which the greatest effort and expense were lavished. Dessert wares of fine porcelain were costly and fragile, and they satisfied the same taste for artifice and luxury as the fruit and confectionery they were made to serve. Being hygienic and odour free, ceramics were favoured above silver and other metals for serving the dessert.
Design & Designing
Ceramic vessels naturalistically modelled and painted as vegetables and animals were very fashionable in mid-18th-century Europe. The fashion probably originated in France or Germany and was soon taken up in England, especially at the porcelain factories of Chelsea and Longton Hall, Staffordshire. The Meissen factory in Germany may have been the first to make such illusionistic serving vessels. The components of dessert services did not always match one another in mid-18th-century Britain.