These George II tea caddies were used to store tea, their small size evidence of how expensive and rare tea was at the time. The word caddy is derived from the Malaysian word “kati,” which designated a unit of measurement almost equivalent to a British pound. Tea was considered an exotic luxury item from China, so the scenes depicting tea planters and pickers on the front and back panels of these tea caddies were typical in decorative arts of the 18th century.
These panels also exemplify chinoiserie, the decorative expression of the West’s imaginings of the Far East. Chinoiserie combined Chinese, Japanese, Indian, and even Turkish motifs with fashionable Western shapes and designs. The chinoiserie panels are combined with elements of the exuberant Rococo style. The curved bombé form of the boxes and low, scroll bracket feet are derived from French Rococo furniture in the Louis XV style.
Using an embossed, or repoussé, technique, the George II tea caddies are decorated abundantly with Rococo scrolls, shells, and flowers in addition to its chinoiserie panels.