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Decorative Arts and Design

The motifs on this tea set are representations of race from the nineteenth century, a time when stereotypical racial images circulated heavily in popular culture and were rarely questioned.

The imagery was intended to symbolize the labor required for the contents of each vessel, including an enslaved African sugarcane picker for the sugar bowl, an Asian man for the teapot, and a goat for the cream pitcher. These objects speak to the exploitative nature of the relationship between white Americans and African descendants and Asian peoples under colonial regimes.
MEDIUM Porcelain
DATES ca. 1867
DIMENSIONS 1 1/4 x 16 1/4 x 16 1/4 in. (3.2 x 41.3 x 41.3 cm)  (show scale)
MARKINGS Painted in black on underside: "U.P.W. / S"
CREDIT LINE Marie Bernice Bitzer Fund
CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Porcelain tray with polychrome decoration. Round, flat bottom with upturned, convex rim. Inside covered with rust-colored ground, medallions containing naturalistically painted nature scenes, vines with leaves and flowers encircle the medallions. Decorations on bottom of tray: large circular medallion in center contains two deer (or antelope) on grassy outcropping, one grazing the other raises its head to confront two flying birds. Six smaller oval medallions around edge, containing (clockwise from top): weasel and monkey; two fighting ducks; two deer locking antlers; large gray bird (ostrich?) with ruffled feathers surrounded by flying birds; reclining boar and an unidentifiable animal; and swimming waterfowl spreading wings over her chicks. Rim decorated with six diamond-shaped medallions alternating with dragons; medallions contain single bird on a branch or an animal (fox or weasel). Condition: Good.
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CAPTION Karl L. H. Müller (American, born Germany, 1820–1887). Tray, ca. 1867. Porcelain, 1 1/4 x 16 1/4 x 16 1/4 in. (3.2 x 41.3 x 41.3 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Marie Bernice Bitzer Fund, 1998.21.1. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 1998.21.1_bw.jpg)
IMAGE overall, 1998.21.1_bw.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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