Tea shops in Europe began carrying various “articles from China, India and Japan” in the 1860s, and it was common for artists to visit these shops. Monet is alleged to have first discovered Japanese woodblock prints at a Dutch shop in 1871, where they had been mixed in with a shipment of merchandise from Asia. The artist was allowed to take the prints for free with the purchase of a china jar because the merchant thought the prints were worthless packing material.
The Tea Set was painted the following year, 1872, while Monet was living in Argenteuil. The dramatic red lacquerware tray and the blue and white porcelain demonstrate Monet’s fascination with Asian art and objects.
Still Life with Melon, also painted in 1872, seems to show more pieces from the same, or a similar, porcelain set.
The teacups make an appearance once again in The Luncheon in 1873, also painted in Argenteuil.
The dining room at Monet’s residence at Giverny still bears testament to Monet’s fondness for Japanese porcelain and art, with its walls and cabinets filled with pieces from the artist’s collection. The blue and white influence also extended into the kitchen.
I spent WAY too much time going through photos of Monet’s house in Giverny. I was trying to get a peek at the contents of his china cabinets in the dining room in order to see the porcelain patterns more clearly. I realize that it is very probable that the actual teacups from the paintings no longer exist, but hey, you never know.
At any rate, I could not find anything that matched the exact designs in Monet’s collection, but I did find a few that come close, shown below.
To read more about Monet, check out Atsy.net: Claude Monet.