Photos by Ellen Easton ©2012 - All Rights Reserved -
*Photos By The Metropolitan Museum of Art© - All Rights Reserved
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Metropolitan Museum of Art's Treasure Trove of Tea
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, located at 1000 Fifth Avenue,
nestled in the heart of New York City's Central Park's Upper East
Side is a treasure trove for any tea lover. As there are literally
over eighty-thousand tea related objects of decorative art, silver,
porcelain, furniture, sculpture, paintings, and photography, one
could literally spend an entire day or more exploring the artistic
wonders that the museum has to offer. What is especially exciting is to discover the contribution that America made to the
world of tea, both in tea equipage, history, and on canvas.
In the newly
2012 renovated American Wing Galleries for Paintings, Sculpture, and Decorative
Arts, the covered or barrel-vaulted ceilings, skylights, oak floors, and
limestone trim bring a new life with contemporary homage to the traditional
Beaux-Arts design that now showcase the second floor galleries.
of the magisterial collections of The Anthony W. and Lulu C. Wang Galleries of
Eighteenth-Century American Art devoted to paintings and architecture,
furniture, silver, and other decorative arts and the Joan Whitney Payson
Galleries thematic groupings, in a broadly chronological order, of paintings and
sculpture of the 19th and early 20th centuries flow freely to the Mezzanine.
As noted by
the museum, "The Mezzanine originally opened in 1988. The Henry R. Luce Center
for the Study of American Art is the American Wing’s visible-storage facility
for works that are not on view in the galleries because of space limitations or
other considerations. The center is completely accessible to the public, even
though it is the actual working storage facility used by the American Wing’s
curatorial staff. Virtually the only objects that cannot be seen either here or
in the galleries are those on temporary loan to other institutions, those
currently undergoing conservation treatments, and light-sensitive works on paper
and textiles, which can be seen by appointment."
forty-five floor-to-ceiling glass cases, objects are arranged by material or
type (paintings, sculpture, furniture, and woodwork, glass, ceramics, silver, and
metalwork) and, within those categories, by date and form. Visible storage
allows visitors to examine multiple versions of a form and to understand how it
has evolved; for example, pieces of American silver include exquisite tea wares
by Louis Comfort Tiffany and Paul Revere, Jr.
side of the entrance corridor are some of the center’s computer stations, which
contain individual in-depth records for all American Wing objects. Indeed, these
digital portals can be used as a starting point for exploring what you might
want to see not only in the Luce Center but also throughout the American Wing.
If you are
interested in American silver, a search for “silver teapot” provides images and
locations for all such teapots in the collection and can be the basis for a
self-directed tour. Additionally, there are areas to sit and rest in the
center, with wireless connectivity throughout, so you can use your own device to
access the Museum’s online resources.
of how many times has one seen the images of Mary Cassatt's, "Lady at the Tea
Table" and "The Cup of Tea" or William McGregor Paxton's, "Tea Leaves" recreated on stationery, book covers, or the
like, nothing can compare to seeing the originals. The dimensional texture of
the brush strokes, combined with the vibrant colors, bring the paintings to life
as if one is joining an old friend for tea.
views a 1700s Federal period room set for tea, a classical rounded silver teapot,
or the whimsy of a porcelain honey pot, the collections hold something for every
1700s Federal Period Tea Room
Embellished Tea Caddy
Tiffany Tea Set (Silver and Ivory),
Hammered Silver Tea Set
Silver Tea Wares
When the day is done, a most befitting close to end one's tea journey would be to sit looking
out into Central Park in one of the museums cafes or restaurants and partake in
an afternoon tea.
WISHING YOU HAPPY TEA TRAVELS™
*Lady at the Tea Table
Mary Cassatt (1844–1926)
1883–1885 Oil on canvas
This work shows Mary Dickinson Riddle, Cassatt’s mother’s first
cousin, presiding at tea, a daily ritual among upper-middle-class
women on both sides of the Atlantic. Mrs. Riddle’s hand rests on the
handle of a teapot, part of a gilded blue-and-white Canton porcelain
service that her daughter had presented to the artist’s family.
Painted in response to the gift, the portrait demonstrates Cassatt’s
mastery of Impressionism in its sketch-like finish, the casual
handling of anatomy, and the sitter’s indifference to the viewer.
Mrs. Riddle’s daughter disliked the portrait, Cassatt kept it until Louisine Havemeyer persuaded her to give it to The Metropolitan
Museum of Art.
*The Cup of Tea
Mary Cassatt (1844–1926)
1880–1881 Oil on canvas
Taking afternoon tea was a social ritual for many upper-middle-class
women. Committed to portraying the ordinary events of everyday life,
the artist made that ritual the subject of a series of works painted
around 1880, when she had been living abroad for the better part of
a decade. Her model for this canvas was her sister, Lydia, who had
moved to Paris, along with their parents, in 1877 and often posed
for her. Cassatt’s embrace of French Impressionism is signaled by
her scintillating brushwork, high-keyed palette, and emphasis on
contrasting complementary colors. Cassatt showed the painting to
critical acclaim in the 1881 Impressionist exhibition.
William McGregor Paxton
(American, Baltimore, Maryland 1869–1941 Boston, Massachusetts)
1909 Oil on canvas
Andrew Ellicott Warner (1786–1870
Mid-Atlantic, Baltimore, Maryland, United States
1845 American Silver
Paul Revere Jr.
(American, Boston, Massachusetts 1734–1818)
1791 Silver, ivory
The urn is
recorded in Revere's ledgers, where on April 20, 1791, a debit is charged to
Mrs. Hannah Rowe for a silver tea urn weighing 111 ounces. It is the earliest
and the largest of the three known tea or coffee urns by Revere.
Round Tea Table
Mid-Atlantic, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
One of the finest ornamentally carved Philadelphia circular tea tables, this example has
exceptionally high knees and, on the pillar, an unusually flattened ball. The
top is a finely figured board with a delicate, crisply carved rim; the fluting
is narrow; the small-scale, naturalistic carving is discreetly placed. Such
refined carving could only have been done by someone fully trained in a rigid
London apprenticeship system, and Philadelphia in the 1760s was a magnet for
just such talented and ambitious craftsmen.
Ellen Easton is a lifestyle industry leader, tea and etiquette authority, author of Afternoon Tea~ Tips, Terms and Traditions,
A Tea Party Planner and Tea Travels™ For The Holidays (RED WAGON PRESS), as well as a hospitality, design and retail consultant, whose clients have included The Waldorf=Astoria,
The Plaza, and Lady Mendl’s Tea Salon.
Easton’s family traces their tea roots to the early 1800s, when ancestors first introduced tea plants from India and China to the Colony of Ceylon,
thus building one of the largest and best cultivated teas estates on the island.
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AFTERNOON TEA...TIPS,TERMS and TRADITIONS
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