English “Chinese House” mug, c.1790

This large soft paste pearlware ale mug was most likely made in Staffordshire, England in the late 1700s. Standing 6-1/2″ tall, the mug is decorated in cobalt blue underglaze with the “Chinese House” pattern, a popular middle class replacement for similarly decorated Chinese porcelain, affordable only to the wealthy. I am quite fond of this loose, stylized decoration; a melding of Eastern and Western influences. The sturdy 19th century replacement handle, with thumb rest and support straps, is made of Britannia metal, aka Britannium, a composite made up of 93% tin, 5% antimony and 2% copper. A traveling tinker made repairs such as this for the townspeople who saved their cherished broken wares in need of his services. Members of the upper class would have taken their damaged goods to a silversmith, resulting in a more refined sterling silver replacement.

This is what the simple loop handle must have looked like before it broke off, as seen on this similarly shaped mug of the same period.

photo courtesy of Earle D. Vandekar

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