A Chinese Coffee Cup, decorated in London, circa 1745-50

Upon its arrival in London, this early Qianlong coffee cup bore only a simple Chinese landscape pattern painted in underglaze blue. Soon after, it was decorated with a man wearing a red frock coat, black stockings and a black hat, surrounded by trees, towers and small sailing boats. This so-called Man-in-a-Red-Coat pattern is based on Chinese versions of Meissen merchant and harbour scenes of the 1720s and 1730s. The double scroll handle form occurs on Bow porcelain of the early 1750s.

According to rate records for the Parish of St James, Piccadilly, James Giles occupied the same premises in Berwick Street, Soho from 1743 until 1778. The enamel and gilt decoration represents the early work of Giles on Chinese blue and white porcelain, the towers with fluttering pennants, trees with dotted blossom, ‘stratified’ rocks, and magenta clouds all being signifiers of his studio from this early period. The enamel and gilt design variously obscures and reveals the underglaze blue pattern, as can be seen with the newly gilt-roofed original pavilion beside the ‘invented’ tower.

Similar decoration appears on Limehouse porcelain of the 1740s.

Condition: There is a minor slither missing from the foot rim, and typical Qianlong potting flaws, such as the kiln grit to the interior of the cup which the artist has cleverly disguised. No other damage and no restoration. The Giles decoration is in excellent order.

Dimensions: Height approximately 6.4 cm

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

European Decoration on Oriental Porcelain, 1700-1830, Helen Espir (Jorge Welsh Books, 2005).

The Watney Collection of Chinese Porcelain Decorated in Holland and England (Bonhams, 2003).