The samovar (Russian: boils itself) is a round metal urn used in Russia for making tea. It is filled with water, which is heated by charcoal placed in a pipe. The first samovars appeared in Siberia in the mid-eighteenth century. By the end of the eighteenth century, the centre of samovar production had moved to European Russia.

In the early nineteenth century, the town of Tula was the acknowledged centre of Russian samovar production. There were dozens of factories and local competition was fierce, leading Russian masters to employ their fantasies to the utmost to gain an edge over rivals. The Chernikov Brothers Factory manufactured samovars in the shape of dolphins (a mammal associated with water). The Vasily Lomov Factory designed samovars in the shape of a keg with a hoop and a dolphin-shaped nose. The simple and elegant forms of the Stepan Kiselev Factory enjoyed great demand across Russia.

The forms and sizes of samovars were dictated by popular concepts of beauty and practicality. Faceted samovars known as “vases” were fashionable in the mid-nineteenth century and can often be seen in Russian genre paintings. Travelling samovars were small and shaped like cubes or octagons. The bent legs could be attached to the special grooves or removed and stored separately. Cups, glasses and sugarbowls were kept inside the samovar when it was not in use.

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