Ball, Black and Company ( American, 1851 - 1874 )


John R. Wendt & Company ( American, 1860 - 1876 )

c. 1865–1871
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General Description

With its bold, geometric forms and classical engraved and cast ornaments, this J.R. Wendt teapot, part of a tea and coffee service, balances modernism and revivalism, themes that often competed for dominance in 19th-century design. The use of spheres, cylinders, and right angles simultaneously recalls the visionary renderings of the 18th-century architect Étienne-Louis Boullée (1738-1799) and foreshadow the modernist metalwork of English industrial designer Christopher Dresser (1834-1904). Conversely, the selectively applied decoration, such as Wendt's signature medallions, is based on the traditions of ancient Greece and Rome. In examples such as this, U.S. metalworkers paid homage to the past, while giving form to the future.

Adapted from

  • Charles L. Venable, Silver in America, 1840-1940: A Century of Splendor (Dallas, Texas: Dallas Museum of Art; New York, New York; Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1994), 50, 328.

  • DMA unpublished material, Label copy.

Web Resources

  • The J. Paul Getty Museum
    Read a biography of 18th century French architect Étienne-Louis Boullée, whose visionary renderings feature bold, geometric forms similar to those in the J. R. Wendt & Co. tea and coffee service.

  • Metropolitan Museum of Art
    Read a biography of English industrial designer Christopher Dresser, who produced modernist metalwork in the late 19th century.