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Martin Guillaume Biennais (1764–1843)

Tea caddy 1809-19

Silver gilt | Measurements 7.7 x 8.7 x 6.2 cm. Weight 264 g (whole object) | RCIN 48396

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  • Oval straight-sided silver-gilt tea caddy with a pull-off cover with central depression, and hinged ring handle, engraved zigzag borders. The caddy has a girdle of berried laurel and gadrooned foot, applied on both sides with winged kneeling genii holding a crown above a rectangular tablet with an N monogram, and engraved on one side with coat of arms of Napoleon with sceptres, crown, cloak and Order.  Unmarked.

    This tea caddy, along with a teapot also in the Royal Collection (RCIN 48395), were undoubtedly pieces from one of Biennais's necessaires de voyages, the caddy designed to fit inside the pot when the pieces were packed into the case.

    Teapot struck on hinged part of lid and base with fineness mark, mark of the Association des Orfevres, and maker's mark of Biennais; struck on outer part of lid with mark of the Association des Orfevres, guarantee mark and maker's mark of Biennais; teapot engraved on one side, Napoleon; tea caddy unmarked; both pieces engraved with coat of arms of Napoleon, with badge of the Legion d'Honneur; both pieces stamped with N cipher.

    Provenance

    Made for Napoleon; acquired by Edward VII when Prince of Wales. First recorded in the Royal Collection in 1877.

    Martin Guillaume Biennais (1764–1843) was originally a cabinet maker and tabletier (dealer and maker of small objects) with established premises at 283 rue St Honoré by 1789 'Au Singe violet' (at the sign of the purple monkey). With the ending of guild restrictions following the passing of the Chapelier laws in 1791he diversified his business to include the production of silver and gilt items. He supplied Napoleon Bonaparte and his family from as early as 1798 including, in 1804, the Emperor's crown and sceptre for his coronations in Paris and Milan.

    Edward VII was a great admirer of Napoleon, creating a Napoleonic Room at Marlborough House which was lined in silk woven with Imperial motifs and filled with Empire furniture. The room contained numerous busts, sculptures, prints and paintings of the Emperor. However there was little that belonged first hand to Napoleon himself and the teapot and caddy were listed with careful annotation of their provenance in the 1885 inventory of Marlborough House as the Emperor's personal property. It was Queen Mary who rationalised the Napoleonic items in the Royal Collection, displaying some of these works with items at Windsor Castle collected by George IV.

  • Medium and techniques

    Silver gilt

    Measurements

    Measurements 7.7 x 8.7 x 6.2 cm. Weight 264 g (whole object)

    264 g (Weight) (whole object)