Coffee Cup, Worcester, soft paste porcelain, c.1765-68


This rare Worcester coffee cup once belonged to a service of which only a very few pieces are recorded. Decorated in the London studio of James Giles, a large gilded ram is suspended from a chain attached to a belt around its body. Scattered puce sprigs surround the exterior of the cup, and in a typical Giles flourish, a single leafy spray is painted to the interior base. The rim is painted with a gilt line.

Provenance: The Gerald Coke Collection; an English Private Collection.

This cup is illustrated by Coke, page 206, plate 34(a). The teapot from this service was in the Zorensky Collection, no. 443.

The late David Howard has undertaken research on the emblem:

'The device with a sheep or fleece is not heraldic and is not recorded in any work on heraldry in the form shown. The wool trade was among the most prosperous in London from the Middle Ages, however, and a member of the Woollens’, Woolmongers’, Woolpackers’, Woolwinders’ or Wool Staplers’ Companies may have had this made especially (although it is not the crest of any of these). In the 18th century a number of wealthy inns and hotels, many of which had custom-made porcelain with their device, were called ‘The Golden Fleece’, including one in Covent Garden, and it may have been one of these. A very similar device with a fleece hanging from a ring is part of the shield of the City of Leeds. It is also possible that a rich wool merchant or woollen draper may have commissioned Giles’. Quoted from James Giles: China and Glass Painter (1718-80), no. 82, Stephen Hanscombe.

Another possibility is that the service to which this cup once belonged may have been commissioned by a recipient of the chivalrous Order of the Golden Fleece.

Condition: There is a restored flat chip to the inside rim, not visible from the exterior. The gilt rim has wear, but the golden fleece and flower decoration are exquisitely painted and in excellent order. There are two small grey spots on the footrim which appear to be staining of some sort, and not restoration. There is a fully glazed clay tear to part of the lower handle terminal from manufacture.

Dimensions: Height 6.3 cm

In Search of James Giles, Gerald Coke (Micawber Publications, 1983).

James Giles, China and Glass Painter, Stephen Hanscombe (Stockspring Antiques Publications, 2005).

The Early James Giles and his Contemporary London Decorators, Stephen Hanscombe (Stockspring Antiques Publications, 2008).

Worcester Porcelain 1751-1790: The Zorensky Collection, Simon Spero & John Sandon (Antique Collectors' Club, 1996).


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