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Home | Articles | The Genuine Article? Kangxi and Samson Cadogan Teapots—Compared

Distinguishing between an original antique and a later copy, be it an innocent interpretation or an intentional fake, can present a challenge to collectors. After investing the time to examine numerous pieces and consult with experts, one can develop a sixth sense—an initial nagging doubt that something is not quite right, even without technical analysis. With the accumulation of experience, it may take only minutes to detect subtleties in line, design, and overall feel that mark the difference between the real thing and a later copy.

Fig. 1 (left): Cadogan Teapot, Samson (Esmie Samson et Cie), Paris, mid-19th century. Porcelain. H. 6 3/4". Photography by Robert Boyd; private collection.

Fig. 2 (right): Cadogan Teapot, Kangxi Period (1662–1722), ca. 1710. Porcelain. H. 5 1/2". Photography by Robert Boyd; private collection.
Illustrated here are two Cadogan teapots, a lidless pot filled from the bottom and designed so as not to spill its contents when turned right-side up, shaped in the form of a Chinese peach. This form was named in the West after the Lord and Honorable Mrs. Cadogan, who introduced an example to mid-eighteenth-century English society. One teapot is Chinese, dating from the Kangxi period (1662–1722), and the other is a mid-nineteenth-century French copy from the Samson factory in Paris. Not made to deceive but to satisfy market demand for high-quality Chinese-style objects, with the passage of time, Samson porcelains are often mistaken for the originals they copied. While some Samson pieces are easily recognized by the firm’s intertwined double S mark painted on the underside of the object, Samson porcelains generally have to be distinguished from the originals through more in-depth analysis.

Comparing the two teapots shows striking similarities in design and decoration (Figs. 1, 2). Each teapot has a similar shape and decoration with a central fruit- or leaf-shaped front panel filled with groups of flowering branches in famille verte (green-dominated) enamels on a red background with scrolls of lotus flowers. Each pot also rests on a flared foot painted with a green “cracked ice” design.

Despite the obvious relationship between the two pots, a more critical visual comparison reveals the distinctions between the early-eighteenth-century Kangxi original and the nineteenth-century Samson copy.

  • The painting style of the Kangxi teapot in Figures 2 and 3 is of free-flowing design with natural and unforced decoration that blends well with the overall form. By contrast, the painting on the Samson teapot in Figures 1 and 4, as with others of its vintage, appears stiff and thick in application. Note, for example, the hatching to the cracked ice design on the foot of the Samson pot, which is heavily painted and also appears rigid and unnatural.

  • The shape and design of the Kangxi teapot is more realistic and elegant. While the subtleties of the peach form are apparent on the Kangxi teapot—with the rounder shape and the indentation at the top indicative of the real fruit—the Samson version forgoes any such definition. The Samson handle also lacks the original’s sinuous form and appears somewhat clumsy and simple. Likewise, the Samson spout does not have the flow of the original’s curvaceous S shape.

  • The use of colors on Samson porcelains can be amazingly accurate, yet they are usually overflamboyant in their use, especially where gilding is employed. Some colors are also too bright and don’t blend well. In addition, the Samson glaze, which can be seen in the unpainted areas, is a hard grayish white as opposed to the soft bluish-tinted glaze emblematic of the Kangxi teapot.

  • The clay itself also provides clues to origin and time frame of each pot. An examination of the underside of the teapots reveals that the clay of the Samson pot is speckled with black dots and has a noticeable granular quality. The clay of the Kangxi teapot, however, is very clear and has a fine, almost unnoticeable granularity.

In summary, the analysis reveals that in a side-by-side comparison, the Samson teapot lacks the harmony of design and natural flow of the Kangxi original, and that a number of technical differences are evident as well. When judged on its own merit, however, the Samson teapot is distinguished by its beautiful decoration and the quality of its manufacture. This exercise is not intended to glorify the products of one time period over another—particularly as some collectors buy the two types of porcelain exclusive of each other—but rather to point out that imitative objects made at a later time period are not always done with the intent to deceive, but to copy an earlier product not readily available in the marketplace. Even so, these objects often do deceive, however unwittingly. When buying porcelain, or any other antique for that matter, it is important to have a trained eye, either your own or that of a trusted dealer.

Fig. 3 (left): Cadogan Teapot, Kangxi Period (1662–1722), ca. 1710. Porcelain. H. 5 1/2". Photography by Robert Boyd; private collection.

Fig. 4 (right): Cadogan Teapot, Samson (Esmie Samson et Cie), Paris, mid-19th century. Porcelain. H. 6 3/4". Photography by Robert Boyd;
private collection.

In terms of valuation, the seventeenth-century Kangxi teapot is worth in excess of $8,000, while the nineteenth-century Samson teapot is valued at around $2,500. Often the discrepancy between the original and the copy can be far greater, but in this instance we have two wonderful objects, collectible on their own merits.

Nick Vandekar is the third generation of a family of antique dealers, having dealt in ceramics for twenty-five years, exhibiting at fairs in Europe, Australia, and America. He has worked as a consultant to purchasers and sellers and most recently as Director of Marketing, Europe for The Catalogue of Antiques & Fine Art.

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