Antique Tole Trays
A tole tray is a metal tray that has been enamelled and decoratively painted.
History & Description
Often referred as toleware, they traditionally have a matte black background with a colourful and elaborate design. Although they can be used as a snack or breakfast tray, they are usually deemed as a decorative piece and are hung on the walls of dining rooms or kitchens as art.
While tole painting had been practised in Asia for centuries, the art of painting coffee pots and metal trays and other forms of enamel ware was developed in Europe in the early-eighteenth century in the United Kingdom. Tole trays were later introduced to the United States in the early-nineteenth century by Scandinavian immigrants.
Guide for collectors
The price of an antique tole tray directly relates to an item's age, the complexity of the painting and materials used. The most valuable and sought after examples come from the Regency period and feature intricate paintings of ships, landscapes and still-lifes, inlaid with mother of pearl or trimmed in gold leaf.
Notable auction sales
On October 17th 1997 at Christie’s in New York, a Regency gilt and polychrome painted tole tray, decorated with a landscape painting in the manner of Francesco Albani, circa early-nineteenth century, realised a price of $17,250.
On April 15th 2001 at Pook & Pook Inc. in Downingtown, Pennsylvania, a vibrant red tole tray, with yellow, green and white floral decoration, circa nineteenth century, realised a price of $15,000.
On April 15th 2005 at Christie’s in New York, a pair of Regency parcel-gilt tole trays each decorated with pastoral scenes and floral sprays, circa 1820, realised a price of $13,200.
On April 6th 2000 at Christie’s in London, a Regency tole tray decorated with a still life of flowers in a pot, circa 1800s, realised a price of £8,813.