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Back to Simplicity



This week I have brought out a series of items in simple designs - perhaps it is the lockdown that has inspired me to focus on simplicity. Even though I dearly miss seeing my family, the news brings endless sadness and at times I feel cabin fever, this is also a time of contemplation and appreciation of the simple things in life. So let's focus today on this adorable little creamware demitasse cup from the 1870s in the Aesthetic Movement style.

There is much confusion about what the Aesthetic Movement was - that is because it was different things to different forms of art. Essentially, it was a rebellion of artists and decorators against the pompous Victorian style as shown at the great exhibitions of the mid 19th Century. Art had become all about a display of wealth, status and politics, often in bad taste. So great artists such as Christopher Dresser, Owen Jones, William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones, Oscar Wilde and many others, started a new movement under the credo "art for art's sake" ; art had to be beautiful for its own sake, not to serve the owner in their social and political endeavours.

But that doesn't work very well for useful arts, such as teacups - they exist to service their owner. So here the credo changed to "a useful object must be art". Rather than painting, for instance, a highly realistic bird to decorate a luxurious teacup and wow its owner, both the bird and the teacup became stylised and simple, but beautiful for their own sake. The perspective changed: a teacup with a bird became all about the bird and what the bird was up to (flying around, tweeting, carrying a worm), not the wealth or sophistication of the owner of the teacup.

This coincided with a new fashion for Eastern, and particularly Japanese art. After trade relations with Japan had been restored in the 1850s, Japanese prints flooded the Western market, revolutionising the perspective of artists. You can see it in the paintings of Vincent van Gogh. Similar to what I just wrote, nature became that which you are immersed in, not something to show off your wealth and power. In Western art, nature is a backdrop for people or animals to be the central focus. But in Japanese prints, people or animals are part of a vast landscape that runs off the page or frame. On this cup, the use of panels for the birds signifies that while the birds are highlighted, nature is all around - no beginning and no end. And these birds are not posing as objects - they are busy going about their daily business of swimming and flying. So back to our creamware demitasse cup. Made by an unknown factory, it is not perfectly made, but it is so adorable and useful. It just about holds a double espresso and you can find it here in my shop. You can see all my cups and saucers here, and if you always want to see the latest additions, follow me on Instagram... I post pictures and a story every single day 🌸🕷🌹


Happy weekend, have a look at the birds - and #stayathome ! 🏡




This week's new treasures:​






#gentlerattleofchina #antiqueporcelain #finebonechina #finechina #antiqueshop #englishantiques #antiquing #antique_r_us #decorativeantiques #interiordesign #interiordesigner #aestheticmovement #birds #blueandwhite #blueonwhite #creamware #demitassecup #demitasse #coffeecup

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© 2020 by Gentle Rattle of China - copyright on all images and text

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