The sugar pot has elaborate decoration in gold and platinum on a deep blue-black ground. The body of the pot has a stylized floral diaper pattern covering the surface with two gold-framed portraits of the French classical scholar and bishop of Auxerre, Jacques Amyot (1513-1593), and the statesman, historiographer, and director of the royal library, Jacques-Auguste de Thou (1553-1617). The same diaper pattern is on the cover. A gold foliate border circles the shoulder of the teapot with platinum dots above and below; above the foot ring there is a fret pattern in gold and platinum. Gold bands finish the rims and foot ring on the pot and cover, with the handle and spout also heavily gilded.
All the five parts of this tea service have portraits in miniature of significant French Renaissance writers, poets, theologians, and historians. The miniature portrait of Jacques Amyot was copied after an engraving by Léonard Gaultier (1561-1635), and the miniature of Jacques-Auguste de Thou from an engraving by Jean Morin (ca. 1605-1650) after a painting by Louis Elle I (1612-1689).
This sugar pot belongs to the Alfred Duane Pell collection in the National Museum of American History. Before Pell (1864-1924) became an Episcopalian clergyman quite late in life, he and his wife Cornelia Livingstone Crosby Pell (1861-1938) travelled widely, and as they travelled they collected European porcelains, silver, and furniture. Pell came from a wealthy family and he purchased the large William Pickhardt Mansion on 5th Avenue and East 74th Street in which to display his vast collection. The Smithsonian was one of several institutions to receive substantial bequests from the Reverend Pell which laid the foundation for their collections of European applied arts.
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