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Thumb and Finger

I have been writing a few times lately about the interesting East-West mix of cultures in porcelain (see the links below). Right now we are more than ever aware how connected we are. We are praying for Italy going through a dark night, cheering for China slowly coming out of isolation, while one of my Chinese customers wrote to me today warning me to wear my face mask 🙏😷🤗

Today I have another wonderful example of the mix of East and West: a coffee cup made by Chamberlains in Worcester in about 1805, and decorated in the "Thumb and Finger" pattern. The porcelain of this cup is typical for the time: it is not bone china but an older form of porcelain that looks greyish and sounds different when you tap it, more like Chinese porcelain.

The decoration is a copy of a Japanese Imari design with bright red flowers, panels with gilt cloud-like flowers in them, and bright green and deep cobalt blue foliage around the flowers. What is interesting is that the flower on the cup seems to have a phoenix rising from it - or is it foliage?

In East Asia, the phoenix has a different meaning from the West. Here it is a magical bird that rises from flames, always defying destruction and re-emerging again. In East Asia it stands for refinement, culture, elegance, obedience and virtue; all very human qualities to strive for.

So now what about the thumb and finger? You will see the strange blue shadowy figure on the lower left side of the design. This probably was originally a rock formation, or water - or perhaps just shadows? But because of its shape that vaguely resembles the fingers of a hand, it became known as the "Thumb and Finger" pattern, one of the most popular Imari patterns in early English porcelain.

You can find the cup and saucer here in my shop, and 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 🌺🍃🌸

Enjoy your weekend - and enjoy some coffee while staying at home!

You can read more about the East-West connection in these past blog posts:


This week's new treasures:​



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