neděle 30. listopadu 2014

Espresso Cups

Blue and white is always a good combination

I have always liked cafés and then coffee. Since high school I have watched the café scene in Prague change and evolve. In the last few years there has been a lot of emphasis on the quality of the coffee itself. This post though is about coffee cups.
The epitome of bourgeois taste- flowers, gold and a nice round shape ,all done by hand.
Ever since I got a coffee machine I started a new collection of coffee cups, they are sometimes referred to as šapo perhaps from the French chapeau indicating the shape of the first cups or mocca cups in Czech. Almost all my cups were originally part of whole coffee sets which were broken over time and eventually dispersed. They are most often found in antique and charity shops and accompanied by random pieces from the original ensemble. I tend to steer clear of high end antique shops which partly specialize in selling these as collector’s items for display as I have a strict rule of using all of mine.
Again flowers imposed on a historical form.

 Drinking from a different cup everyday gives me welcome variety and is also a responsible way to give old objects a new lease on life. Because these pieces of china are often vintage at the least, they cannot be put into a dishwasher making them undesirable to most but also relatively affordable.

This cup has an interesting detail inside.

As I only drink small strong espressos they are generally small cups that can hold a maximum of 120ml liquid. Most of them are much smaller though and quite dainty, some just big enough for a ristretto. The cups I drink from are mostly of local origin as production of such delicate items has only recently resumed but on a far smaller scale. I doubt that porcelain production will ever again be such a strong industry as it was in the interwar period and under communism. This might also be due to a change in lifestyle as few people want coffee sets for their wedding or have a place of pride in their homes for such things.

Just big enough for a ristretto.
Art nouveau revival allegedly  by Jaroslav Ježek
Most of the cups I use date from the early 20th century to the 1980’s.Almost all were mass produced but a few are hand painted or were made by a renowned designer. Some are also from very thin porcelain making them not only delicate but almost disposable and that is why I tend to try to buy more than one if available. 

The decoration on the cups varies tremendously from geometric patterns to art nouveau stylizations but I am always amused by the pieces that were made from the approximately the 60’s-80’s which reference historical styles albeit with an element of the period. Many therefore have shapes popular in the Biedermeier period or stylized decorations taken from folk art .The result are always an effort of middleclass aspiration in porcelain.
A very gay one

 It was in the 19th century with the economic growth of the middle classes that the production of items such as these cups too off in this part of Europe. Since I started buying these small objects I have noticed two very prominent characteristics that have been used by porcelain decorators in all periods, the first is the use of gold to decorate the cups, and they are often completely golden or at least have a gold painted handle or inner band. My guess is that gold for many in some unconscious way elevates the item to a festive one.

I am not sure this cup was ever meant for drinking.

Another prevalent characteristic is the use of flowers and floral motives in decoration not only these cups but porcelain in general. I have seen birds, animals and sometimes towns depicted but never a car for example. Given that porcelain cups were most often bought by and for women I think that florals are a sensible choice.

This piece has a beautiful  hand painted  detail of Prague.
I have banned Czech pink porcelain but otherwise in the same way I choose a tie or socks for my day, I choose my espresso cup.

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