x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

11. Teapot, Russian, late 19th to early 20th century

To mark the nation's 40th anniversary, we feature 40 historic objects.

This teapot would have left a Moscow factory and journeyed south by land and water for months before arriving in Abu Dhabi.
This teapot would have left a Moscow factory and journeyed south by land and water for months before arriving in Abu Dhabi.
Like many women with households to manage, Dr Ahmed Khoori's grandmother needed a pot of tea to jump-start her day.
But why was this venerable old lady pouring her morning cuppa from a porcelain teapot made at a Russian pottery founded by a Scottish entrepreneur, which had made a journey of nearly 4,000 kilometres to her arish home in Abu Dhabi?
The clues are all in the teapot. The factory mark on the base tells us three things. First, that it was made by the Gardner porcelain factory, based about 80 kilometres north of Moscow.
Second, the name of the factory written in Arabic script shows it was made for export to Islamic markets. Third, because the mark shows the imperial double-headed eagle, it was made before the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, which led to the Gardner factory coming under state control.
Francis Gardner was a Scottish émigré who set up in business in Russia in the middle of the 18th century. A hundred years later, his teapots, usually in red or blue and with hand-painted floral motifs, were particularly popular in what is now Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and the Arabian Gulf.
This particular teapot would have left the Moscow factory and journeyed south by land and water, probably crossing the Black Sea and arriving in Abu Dhabi after a short sea voyage across from the Persian port of Bandar Abas. It was a route already centuries old even by the turn of the 19th century, and with links even to the old Silk Road.
None of which would have much concerned Khoori's grandmother, who kept the precious pot in a wooden box to protect it from breakage (and perhaps grandsons).
Khoori recalls that his grandmother would take her tea "with no milk, just sugar. Tea in those days was quite rare and expensive, but she always had a pot every morning and afternoon".