Keen to have a cuppa

This week on the blog, a bunch of teacups classified according to how cute I think they are. It won’t be as fun as talking to God on the porcelain telephone, but teacups also give us heaps of scope!

Thinking about it – depending on your taste, most of you will be either tea or coffee drinkers (or maybe both, if you’re really breaking boundaries), as is the case in our office.  On the other hand, all of us can relate to making a storm in a teacup or feeling that something it isn’t our cup of tea, regardless of whether we actually drink tea or not. So, this Friday afternoon, grab your cuppa, relax and get lost for a moment in the teacups of yesteryear…

With your and, of course, Jessie’s permission, I’ve borrowed her rating system because we are already familiar with that. Well, except that this time the ranking is back to front, so that our expectations can increase from the beginning to the end.

Cute rating: not at all. Bone china vessels are frequently found on Christchurch sites, and although they’re a bit of cut above the basic refined earthenware vessels, they’re usually relatively plain in decoration. These were fairly affordable, and perfect for your daily caffeine dose. Left: gilt banded teacup, featuring a thin line on the rim and body. Right: sprigged teacup. This technique is easily identifiable by the small blue applied moulded sprigs of floral and foliage motifs, frequently used in the mid-late 19th century (Brooks 2005: 43). Image: M. Lillo Bernabeu.

Cute rating: everyday, as these were very popular in the 19th century. Fair enough. Left: Rhine pattern. A typical romantic pattern displaying a castle and people in a boat sailing on the river surrounded by large trees. Right: Asiatic Pheasants teacup. This pattern is likely the most common floral pattern of the 19th century, but is usually found in a pale blue colour rather than black. Both decorative styles were relatively low-cost but a tidy option for drinking coffee or tea. Image: M. Lillo Bernabeu.

Cute rating: boring? Not at all. I kind of like it, to be honest. The garland on top features repetitive dots and a ribbon with geometric elements hanging. This set seems a bit solemn, but these would have been a perfectly functional vessel for a morning or afternoon tea. Image: C. Dickson.

Cute rating: understated, in a lovely shade of pink. I love this type of aesthetic design. This style often places emphasis on asymmetry in design, combining geometric shapes with fans, birds, bamboo and blossoms inspired by Japanese imagery (Samford 1997: 19). Aesthetic decoration is relatively common on Christchurch sites dating to the 1880-1890s period. Image: C. Dickson.

Cute rating: relatively elegant teacup and saucer set. This motif was identified as the Napier pattern through the mark, which also indicates that it was made by William Brownfield, a Staffordshire potter, who operated from 1850 to 1871 under this name (Godden 1991: 110). Image: J. Garland.

Cute rating: attractive because of its naïve semblance. As the name indicates, sponged decoration is formed by the application of a sponge (Brooks 2005: 42). Also, this teacup and saucer set have extra points from me as the repetitive spirals remind me a little of the koru, the Māori symbol of creation, which also symbolises how life both changes and stays the same. Getting thoughtful and meditative at this stage… Image: M. Lillo Bernabeu.

Cute rating: minimalist fancy (by me). I guess this one is quite difficult to fit into our cute ranking. But I needed to include it. A teacup with plenty of insects! It puzzles me a bit! Ladybugs and butterflies are lovely little creatures though…but I don’t have the same feeling with the ants, cockroaches, beetles or what’s that? I’m not too sure. Perhaps, this teacup might be the best choice when offering a hot drink to someone who doesn’t please us to much… On the other hand, it could also be the favourite cup of an entomologist! Image: J. Garland.

Cute rating: very. With exotic connotations, an excellent companion for a relaxing moment – let yourself be seduced by (admittedly English depictions of) the Ancient Orient and the Moorish culture, travelling to India, Persia or wherever you want. Unfortunately, I can’t figure out (so far) the name of this pattern, which displays a variety of elements: buildings with minarets, palm trees, columns and three men with beards and black robes, it looks like one of them is teaching, lecturing or just rambling on, while the others listen. These patterns are based on English impressions of ‘exotic’ locations, showing a romanticised imagery of those, don’t necessarily depicted as they were. Anyway, lovely! Image: J. Garland.

Cute rating: majestic, as grand and noble as the rearing equestrian statue suggests. This one is a slightly different shape from the others, making it even prettier -the teacup has a flared rim and a sophisticated handle, both of which grant it a superb style. This pattern name is Walmer, inspired by the Walmer Castle, a defensive structure built by Henry VIII in the 16th century to defend the Downs of southeast Kent against foreign invasion (Transferware Collector’s Club, 2005-2017). Image: J. Garland.

Cute rating: the best of the bunch (in my opinion). Jessie is holding a precious treasure in this photo. Who doesn’t want this delightful cup and saucer? No words to describe how lovely they are! Also, this set has everything that we, as archaeologists, could ask of an artefact – the vessels are nearly complete, decorated with the flow blue technique displaying a beautiful Asiatic inspired scene and there is a mark on the base with the name of the pattern and the manufacturer! The pattern is Amoy, which use to be the name of the port city of Xiamen in China. The scene shows two Chinese figures, one is seated, and the other is standing. There is a fringed parasol between them and they are flanked by trees and other plants…an idyllic spot for a cuppa (or a smoke, as we can see from the pipes in the hands of the two figures). The maker’s mark indicate that they were made in England by Davenport c. 1844 (Mason 1982: 15). Image: M. Lillo Bernabeu.

Unquestionably, the consumption of both tea and coffee became an important part of New Zealand culture from the 19th century onwards. The archaeological record confirms this popular habit through the range of teacups and saucers found on Christchurch sites, and around the country. Nowadays, smoko, morning and afternoon tea are all essential in our daily lives to give us the energy for the day or, paradoxically, as a moment of personal relaxation or an enjoyable social moment with mates and friends. Keen to have a cuppa? Always.

Maria Lillo Bernabeu

References

Brooks, A., 2005. An Archaeological Guide to British Ceramics in Australia 1788-1901. The Australasian Society for Historical Archaeology & La Trobe University, Australia.

Godden, G., 1991. Encyclopaedia of British Pottery and Porcelain Marks. Crown Publishers, New York.

Mason, V., 1982. Popular Patterns of Flow Blue China. Library of Congress, Wallace Homestead Book Company, Iowa.

Samford, Patricia M., 1997. Response to a market: Dating English underglaze transfer‐printed wares. Historical Archaeology 31 (2): 1‐30.

Transferware Collector’s Club, 2005-2017. Welmar [online] Available at:  http://www.transcollectorsclub.org/tcc2/data/patterns/w/walmer/ [Accessed 13 December 2016].

Toilet humour

This week on the blog, a selection of chamber pots for your perusal, ranked according to my entirely objective, and not at all arbitrary, assessment of how fancy they are. This is accompanied by my very best attempt at using as many euphemisms for talking to God on the porcelain telephone as I can bring myself to type. Starting right now.

(Fair warning, I got most of the euphemisms from the internet. I’m not entirely convinced that they’re all actually things that people say. I also struggled to say most of them out loud, let along type them up in a blog post, so these are some of the more innocuous ones…)

Fancy rating: fairly fancy. Who doesn’t want a lovely flared rim chamber pot decorated with cows in which to see a man about a horse (how confusing).  This one, which we’ve featured here on the blog before, is decorated with the pattern “Cattle Scenery” and dates to the 1850s-1860s. Image: M. Lillo Bernabeu.

Fancy rating: understated fancy. This porcelain throne is literally porcelain, unlike the others in this post, which are all refined earthenware. It may not have the charming farm animals or gaudy colours of its compatriots, but this is the kind of commode used by somebody who actually says commode and refuses to refer to doing one’s business at any time, by any kind of phrase. Image: J. Garland.

Fancy rating: boring but perfectly serviceable vessel for going where even the emperor must go on foot. I don’t really have anything to say about this one. It’s…respectable? Image: J. Garland.

Fancy rating: middling fancy, with aspirations of grandeur.  A person could check the plumbing using this and remain secure in the knowledge that while they may not own a castle, they can at least squat over the towers of one when they want to. This particular potty was found on the site of a china shop, so, unlike most of the chamber pots we find, it might not have actually been used. Image: J. Garland.

Fancy rating: classical overtones, with points for the purple. This pattern is known as the ‘Alma’ pattern, or rather, is one of several 19th century patterns known by that name. It may refer to a small river in the Crimea that was home to a significant battle between the armies of Britain, France, Turkey and Russia during the Crimean war. I very much doubt that the Crimea, its rivers and the war, were on anybody’s mind while using this to change the water on the goldfish (seriously, who says this!?), but you never do know. Image: J. Garland.

Fancy rating: stately. A slightly different shape to some of the others, this chamber pot is both tall and sturdy, with an imposing cold marble look to it and a spacious interior. The sort of porcelain – or marble – throne from which one reigns over one’s bodily functions, as one should. Image: J. Garland.

Fancy rating: as fancy as those “paintings” we used to make as kids with some paint and half a potato carved to act as a stamp. I kind of like this one, though. It’s somehow cheerful. If you had to visit kermit (apparently it’s Cockney rhyming slang, see if you can work it out), it’s not a bad option. Image: J. Garland.

Fancy rating: very. Decorated with the pattern ‘May Morn’, this glossy, beautifully shaped chamber pot is possibly the most elegant vessel for answering the call of nature that I think we’ve found to date. Maybe we should all decorate our toilets with scenes of springtime in the country. It (like most of the chamber pots in this post) would likely have been part of a bedroom set that included a wash basin and pitcher. Image: J. Garland.

Fancy rating: not at all. Plain, serviceable and child-sized, this is the most basic of vessels in which to sprinkle the tinkle. Image: J. Garland.

Fancy rating: relatively elegant, entirely inoffensive repository with which to refresh the body. Late Spode, made by W. T. Copeland in the latter half of the 19th century. Image: Underground Overground Archaeology.

I could bring myself to use it, but points to “humping the cats loin” for the strangest euphemism I came across.

Jessie Garland

All things great and small

Here at Underground Overground Archaeology we try not to sweat the small stuff – particularly because the small stuff we find is often super cool and makes us say “aww, that’s cute!”, similar to the way many people react when they see baby humans next to regular sized, adult humans.

For example: one product, in two very different sized pots (it’s John Gosnell’s Cherry Toothpaste – first produced in the 1850s). The image on the left shows the size we commonly find in 19th century Christchurch assemblages. The one on the right was a unique find for us. It’s super cute, but it wouldn’t have held a whole lot of toothpaste. Images: left and right: C. Dickson.

Big things coming in small packages are quite literally the bread and butter of an archaeologist. We have often mentioned the theory of how the smallest or most ordinary of objects can illustrate the histories of people and places in ways we might not expect. This was an idea first brought forward in the 1970s, by – American archaeologist, James Deetz, in his bookIn Small Things Forgotten.’

While many of the artefacts we find are small fragments, or what Deetz would consider small things anyway, there are also those that we would classify as “mini sized.” These tiny versions of some of our commonly found Victorian artefacts don’t appear to be particularly rare among online collectors, but information regarding their functions is rather scarce. When faced with identical artefacts with such extreme size differences, our best guess is that these may represent samples of a product – much like a tester you would find in a pharmacy today. Although humorous to imagine, it seems a little farfetched that a mini-sized champagne bottle would have been found in a 19th century boarding house minibar, or that a mini toothpaste pot was fashioned as travel size to fit in your carry-on baggage. Moreover, the subject of vessel reuse is one that constantly plagues our ability to accurately attribute vessel function to our finds, and intrinsically assigning the normal contents of a ‘regular’ sized vessel to a ‘sample size’ vessel, seems even more problematic than usual. For instance, the volume of the mini ring-seal bottle pictured below suggests that it probably wouldn’t hold more than one serving… So champagne for one anyone?

Less is more? Here are some smaller versions of some larger alcohol bottles. On the right is a tiny version of one of the most common 19th century artefact finds – the black beer bottle. The left image shows the size comparison of a champagne shaped ring seal bottle – these were made in several different volumes, but the mini size is rare. Maybe sometimes people just weren’t overly thirsty. Images: J. Garland and C. Dickson.

Maria and I with two very different sized flagons, wearing two very similar tops…. Coincidence? …Actually yes. These vessels may have once held a number of beverage types, including cider, beer, wine or water. The large vessel was made by Stephen Green’s Imperial Pottery in Lambeth, between 1820 and 1858. The small vessel was manufactured by George Skey and Co., Tamworth – a known maker of ginger beer between 1860 and 1936 (Lorenzor 2011). Images: J. Garland and C. Dickson.

It is a small world after all, and maybe sometimes people only needed small amounts of certain products? The tiny bottles that we occasionally find may have been deliberately sized as such because their original contents were perishable and consumers didn’t use much at once. Cosmetics come to mind in this case.

Our in-house hand model, Jessie, is sporting two very small vessels which come in several different colours to suit every skin tone. We aren’t entirely sure what these tiny bottles originally contained, but the one on the left has black residue on the interior.

If we take a break from beverages and bottles, we can consider the small artefacts that are known as ‘miniatures’ (the type of bric-a-brac one finds on a mantelpiece). These items have been relatively overlooked by archaeological interpreters and theorists in the past, primarily because their origins and meanings are less understood than those of items that were used as part of daily domestic or commercial tasks. Indeed, the way we even sometimes refer to miniatures carries connotations of reduced importance, calling them “trinkets,” “trifles,” or “dainty” (Mullins 2001: 159). Perhaps I’m also guilty of this, having called the toothpaste pot “cute” earlier. It’s been thought that lesser archaeological value has been historically attributed to these ‘knickknacks’ because they are recovered from archaeological sites in comparatively smaller numbers, and have less meaning attached to them than other artefacts (Mills 2015: 250). Even modern-day enthusiasts and collectors of miniatures are often more concerned with the rarity, and thus greater monetary value of their antiques, so the original functions and meanings of these items are further ignored (Mills 2015: 250).

As a result of this gap in the discourse, we don’t know all that much about miniatures. While it’s true that they’re not found as commonly on historical archaeological sites as items that are ‘’utilised’ for everyday functions, we do still come across them. So it begs some questions – how did people acquire them? How did the manufacturers of miniatures decide what to make? And how were they promoted to potential consumers? (Mills 2015: 256). Nineteenth century advertisements for miniatures are scarce, despite the phenomenal increase in marketing that occurred during this century (Mills 2015: 256). But we can guess that many of these ‘luxury?’ items must have been inexpensive and versions of them were probably readily available to most people because miniature forms are found on archaeological sites widely spanning many different socio-economic groups.

Beverage break! Some of the Underground Overground Archaeology staff (including a very fresh-faced Luke), enjoying a cup of afternoon tea. Personally, I require more tea than this during my breaks, but that’s just me…

Despite the small issue of the gap in our knowledge, the idea has been put forward by scholars that “A reduction in dimensions does not produce a corresponding reduction in significance” (Stewart 1993: 43). As miniatures could often be considered more ‘luxury’ items (in this case, luxury refers to something that is not used as a part of everyday living), they offer us a rare opportunity to speculate about values and thoughts, rather than about everyday activities. The latter of these can be seen through household artefacts, and the theory behind their use can get a little mundane when they only show us home maintenance, cooking, cleaning, eating, grooming, child care etc. It’s been theorised that “while many artefacts can reflect the thinking of their owners indirectly (fashionable tea wares, for example), miniatures can depict attitudes and meanings since they were not acquired to be used, but for what they symbolized” (Mills 2015: 254).

But theorising/speculating about the meaning of miniatures is not without risk. Attributing meaning to any object is problematic because an individual’s ownership of an artefact can’t always be assumed, and connecting ‘backstories’ to possessions can reflect the biases modern interpreters (Mills 2015: 255). One of the main ways this happens with miniatures is by assuming that “small” equals “toy” and “toy” equals “child”. This is something we often do when finding miniature items like ceramic dolls, marbles and miniature tea sets on Christchurch archaeological sites – and as with other places in the world, documented evidence of children’s presence on these sites is not always found to back up this presumed ownership. Of course, children are not always recorded in historical sources, but this is beside the point. Meanings behind the creation, initial appropriation and continued possession of artefacts can be acquired, changed, and abandoned over time— for example, what starts as an item of childhood entertainment may be nostalgically kept by an adult, or even sometimes may be first acquired by an adult (Mills 2015: 255). This could explain the presence of things like miniature tea sets in our assemblages when we know that only a bachelor lived on-site historically. To confuse the issue further, the concept of childhood as a distinct from adulthood was not also widely recognised by all parts of Victorian society until the mid-19th century (Mills 2015: 255). Child labour was the norm among the Victorian lower classes at this time, but sentiments of youthful innocents requiring protection and education grew, and as a result, so did childhood leisure time. Prior to this, some children still had opportunities to play, but not in the ways children do today, and we can’t assume that all children played with ‘toys’ in the way that we think of them now.

A tiny dog and some tiny bricks. The bricks represent an artefact that we would typically classify as a ‘toy’ or ‘children’s artefact’. The bricks are called ‘kiddibricks’ – first made in Christchurch 1893, by Percival Adams (who was the son of a brick-maker). He made a miniature model of a brick-making press (which made miniature bricks; Truttman 2011). The name “kiddibricks” probably says it all, but these are essentially a precursor to Lego, and I know a few adults who love a good Lego set.

Regardless of their original contents or meanings, mini-sized artefacts and “miniatures” are always a welcome find on our historic sites. We may not be able to come to many conclusions about their place in the historic world, but it pays to remember, it’s the little things that count.

Chelsea Dickson

References

Lorenzor, M., 2011. Tamworth Time Hikes: George Skey´s Wilnecote Works [online] available at: https://tamworthtimehikes.wordpress.com/2011/06/16/george-skey%C2%B4s-wilnecote-works/

Mills, R. 2015. ‘Material Culture in Miniature: The Historical Archaeology of Nineteenth-Century Miniature Objects.’ The Importance of British Material Culture to Historical Archaeologies of the Nineteenth Century. Alisdair Brooks (eds): 243-273. University of Nebraska Press.

Mullins, P., 2001 Racializing the Parlour: Race and Victorian Bric- a- Brac Consumption. In Race and the Archaeology of Identity. Charles E. Orser, editor, pp. 158– 176. University of Utah Press, Provo

Stewart, S., 1993. On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection. Duke University Press, Durham nc.

Truttman, L., 2011. ‘A Little Brick Story.’ Timespanner [Online] Available at: https://timespanner.blogspot.co.nz/2011/03/little-brick-story.html

Bits and bobs

This week, a few of the fabulous things we’ve been finding recently.

A French clay pipe, moulded to show a Native American figure crouching at the front of the bowl, with tobacco leaves decorating the bowl to either side of him. We don’t yet know who the figure is, but the pipe is likely to have been made by one of the larger French houses, such as Fiolet or Gambier. Image: J. Garland.

Edward’s “Harlene” hair tonic. This was made by Reuben Goldstein Edwards in London from c. the 1880s onwards (or so he claimed in 1903, when he registered Harlene as a trademark). It was advertised in New Zealand newspapers in the late 19th century as “the best hairdressing for strenghthening, beautifying and preserving the hair”. Image: M. Lillo Bernabeu.

What we think is an imitation Mason’s Imari jug, in the style of those made by G. M. and C. J. Mason in their Fenton factory in the 1820s. The design is heavily influenced by Japanese motifs and the handle is in the shape of a dragon, with the feet forming the base and the face roaring at you over the rim. Unlike the known Mason’s jugs, this particular example has only an impressed mark reading “IRONSTONE CHINA” on the base, rather than “MASON IRONSTONE CHINA”. Image: J. Garland.

The stem from another clay smoking pipe, decorated with a sleeping (maybe) lion. Image: J. Garland.

Charles Hockin was a London chemist who also made photographic products and inks later in his career. It’s unclear exactly when his business was established, but he seems to have been operating from at least the 1840s onwards. He made a range of products, but seems to have been known for his Seidlitz Powder, a “gentle medicine” that appears to have also been a kind of salt, marketed as a remedy for stomach ailments. Image: J. Garland.

The bowl and socket of a two piece pipe, moulded to look like eagle talons holding an egg. Image: M. Lillo Bernabeu.

A trade token. Not as unusual as they once were in Christchurch archaeology (we’ve got a few now), but this particular one is from Melbourne, which is a bit unusual. This one reads HIDE & DECARLE / ELIZABETH STREET / MELBOURNE / GROCERS AND WINE MERCHANTS and dates to 1858. Image: J. Garland.

This is a bit fancy. Also a bit gaudy. Known as a lustre vase, they seem to have been a popular Victorian object (for the more wealthy in society), designed for the table or the mantle in the home. While our one doesn’t quite have all it’s pieces, it does a fragment of drilled glass with a copper chain still attached – this would have held the long dangling chain of glass prisms. This is a pretty fantastic find for us – we don’t usually find fancy goods in rubbish pits (you don’t normally throw those out if you can help it), so, despite it’s gaudiness, we think it’s kind of awesome. Image: J. Garland, and Ebay.

A pipe bowl decorated with a goat. Because, why not. Image: J. Garland.

Look at her, in her cute little nightcap. She is judging you. She is definitely judging you. Image: M. Lillo Bernabeu.

A very dramatic Ruins patterned plate with a Copeland/Late Spode mark. Image: M. Lillo Bernabeu.

This is possibly my favourite artefact from the last few months. It’s an appointment card for a W. C. T. U. meeting in New Brighton, found in the ceiling of a house occupied by the regional and national president of the organisation in the early 20th century. For those of you who don’t know, the W. C. T. U. refers to the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, an organisation that played a significant role in the women’s suffrage/political movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Among the members, and leaders, of the Christchurch branch was the one and only Kate Sheppard. Image: M. Lillo Bernabeu.

Classic! A look at transfer patterns inspired by the ancient world

Ceramic artefacts are some of the most common finds recovered from 19th century Christchurch archaeological sites. Teacups, saucers, plates, dishes, bottles, jars, jugs, chamber pots, wash basins…heaps of objects related to food and drink preparation, consumption and storage as well as hygiene or personal grooming habits. However, today, we’re not talking about forms and functions. We’ll go further…travelling through transfer printed decorations inspired by Neoclassical and Romantic designs.

Once upon a time, until the invention of transfer printing, the coloured decorations on ceramics were applied by hand. The technique of transfer printing, which originated in England in the mid-18th century, allowed potters, for the first time, to mass-produce identical detailed images on ceramic vessels. Blue and white designs dominated the wide world of transferwares, although black, brown, green, grey, purple and red colours were also used in the second half of the 19th century as we’ll see.

A perfect explanation of the invention of transfer printing. Press 10/07/1935

Potteries offered a variety of patterns that reflected social and decorative trends of the time. It was well-known by everybody that the finest ceramic was imported from China. It is not a surprise, then, that Chinese designs were copied or adapted and used as inspiration. In fact, patterns like Asiatic Pheasants and Willow became very popular and they are found on Christchurch sites quite often.

Asiatic Pheasants (left) and Willow (right) plates. These designs are still in use on modern ceramics, confirming their success among consumers. Image: J. Garland and M. Lillo Bernabeu.

However, the search for more interesting and original decorations began quickly. European scenes based on neoclassical and romantic themes became inspiration for decorative designs in the mid-19th century and were sold as an exotic counterpoint to the similarly popular scenes of British landscape and architecture.

By the late 18th and early 19th centuries neoclassicism had infiltrated the arts and historical tradition. Ancient Greece and Rome were the inspiration. Transfer prints and stylistic trends were influenced by archaeological discoveries at ancient cities such as Pompeii, Herculaneum or Athens. Designs were dominated by horizontal and vertical lines and symmetrical proportions reflected the virtues of  antiquity, like harmony, clarity and universality. Ceramic patterns displayed temples, columns, urns, sculptures, draped figures, acanthus leaves and Greek or Roman ruins in an effort to emulate these glorious past civilizations. Neoclassical patterns are relatively common finds on archaeological sites in Christchurch, some more frequently than others.

To be honest, it was difficult to choose just a few patterns to show you today. But, finally, here we are with a selection of some of my favourite neoclassical inspired patterns uncovered on Christchurch sites!

ANTIQUE (left) and ITALIAN (right). Both patterns featured a bunch of antique vases in a central scene. The Greek vases sold to the British Museum by Sir William Hamilton attracted considerable attention over the years and were probably the inspiration for these decorations. Image: J. Garland.

ETRUSCAN was a popular name used for transferware designs showing classical vases and ewers. We know if was popular as several variations have been found in Christchurch, all of which featured a border with the repeating Greek key motif and/or an arrangement of vases in the centre of the scene. Image: J. Garland.

From the late 18th to the mid-19th centuries romanticism arose in Europe as a reaction to modernity, increasing industrialisation and rationality in general, and as a rejection of the neoclassical virtues of order, calm and harmony in particular. This artistic, cultural and intellectual movement played on the emotions, individualism and the glorification of the past and nature. Given the interest in nature, these designs often contained landscape scenes. Romantic imagery is easily identifiable on transferwares because it always follows this formula: water source as a central feature (river, lake), stylised buildings in the distance and small human figures and/or animals to provide sense of scale. Nature is also present through trees, mountains and valleys.

A wide variety of romantic patterns are commonly found on Christchurch sites, but again (sorry for my obsession today!), I chose those inspired by classical themes, which completed the romantic formula that we know with classical buildings, fountains, urns or pillared balconies. Some of these patterns, as you’ll see, were named after historical places or influential figures in the past. Designs were sometimes associated with the name or place, but were sometimes not…

MOREA was the then name of the Peloponnesus, a peninsula in Southern Greece, so-named because it is said to look like a mulberry leaf in shape. The pattern depicted classical ruins with columns close to a river. The scene is framed by flowers and trees. A distant building with towers are visible on the distance. Two people on a path were also represented, one of them walking and the other one riding a horse. Image: J. Garland.

MYCENAE was the center of Mycenaean civilization, the culture which dominated Greece, Aegean islands and the coast of Asia Minor during the late Bronze Age in the II millennium BC and one of the most important archaeological sites of Greece. This example of Mycenae pattern featured an urn with two handles in the centre of the scene decorated with a variety of sculptures and musicians in separated vignettes along with floral and geometric designs. Water, buildings and mountains completed the landscape surrounded by trees. J. Garland.

RAVENNA is an Italian city, which was the capital of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century. The pattern combined a classical garden with a woman’s statue on a pedestal, a balustrade, a vase, a river and again, distant classical buildings and mountains among a cloudy sky. Image: J. Garland and M. Lillo Bernabeu.

As I mentioned, pattern names occasionally don’t match with the subject portrayed and for me, Sappho is a perfect example. I chose it because of who it refers to…

SAPPHO is a geometric pattern consisting of repeating elements on the border and a medallion in the centre of the vessel. On top right, among the earthenwares offered to consumers, Sappho dinner services were listed as an available pattern in 1863 (Press 5/08/1863: 2). On bottom right, there is a picture of Sappho, who inspired this ceramic decoration. She was a Greek lyric poet from the island of Lesbos, particularly famous for her love poems. Image: J. Garland and Wikimedia Commons.

Given the topic for the blog today and taking advantage of that, I would like to show you other Romantic patterns based on real or imaginary European themes, referring to Spain and its medieval past. Yes! Here in Christchurch we have found these beautiful vessels…

ANDALUSIA is a region in the South of Spain. This Andalusia patterned plate features Spanish friars or monks, praying in front of a monument. The border has vignettes with alternating sprays, floral and foliage elements. Image: J. Garland.

Sometimes, we find ourselves unable to trace the name of a specific design, although many of the elements may be known and/or resemble other ceramics decorations. For example, although it was impossible to figure out the name of this ceramic pattern, I can’t resist the temptation to suggest an idea…

The pretty chamber pot on top uncovered on Tuam Street features an architecture quite familiar to me. It reminds me of the Alhambra in Granada. And I promise you that it is not a crazy idea! Look the image on right! The name Alhambra means “the red fortress”. Alhambra is one of the most emblematic examples of Islamic architecture in Spain, later completed as a fortress and palace. The place in which the fortress is located has plenty of running water, fountains, cascades and gardens. It was the last bastion of the Moors, who were forced to leave Spain by Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492. Image: J. Garland and The Telegraph.

While Romantic transfer prints based on classical inspirations are relatively popular on 19th century Christchurch sites, those inspired by the Middle Age in Spain are uncommon finds so far. It is likely that Spain was more exotic and unusual for the New Zealand consumers, rather than Greek and Rome revivals.

The presence of these fashionable items within the home, displaying exotic scenes of faraway places, conveyed messages and knowledge of culture and history. Certainly, potters made wares decorated with certain patterns to supply the consumer’s demand. But beyond that, ceramics were a vehicle by which the myths and ideas from these places could travel across the world wherever the vessels were sold. These neoclassic and romantic transfer prints could make people believe that they were intrepid explorers travelling to ancient Europe, through their vessels. The scenes on their plates would become their image of Greece or Rome and Spain, whether or not it was realistic. The symbolic power of transfer prints was also important in the formation of new identities and the emergence of new national ideologies throughout the 19th century, as we discussed in a recent post talking about commemorative designs.

Neoclassical and romantic decorative styles, which inspired both my post today and ceramic makers during the 19th century, had decreased in popularity by the late Victorian era, while the standard Willow and Asiatic Pheasants remained in production for some time. After the decline of neoclassical and romantic designs, patterns with repeating and floral borders became more popular. However, that’s a story for another day!

By Maria Lillo Bernabeu

References

Brooks, A., 2005. An Archaeological Guide to British Ceramics in Australia 1788-1901. The Australasian Society for Historical Archaeology & La Trobe University, Australia.

Coysh, A. W. and Henrywood, R. K., 1982. The Dictionary of Blue and White Printed Pottery 17801880, Volume I. Antique Collectors’ Club, Suffolk.

Encyclopedia Britannica, 2017. [online] Available at: https://www.britannica.com/ [Accessed 23 June 2017]

Lucas, G., 2003. Literature and Transfer-Printed Pottery in the Early Nineteenth Century. International Journal of Historical Archaeology, 7 (2): 127-143.

Samford, Patricia M., 1997. Response to a market: Dating English underglaze transfer‐printed wares. Historical Archaeology 31 (2): 1‐30.

Transferware Collector’s Club, 2005-2017. [online] Available at:  http://www.transcollectorsclub.org/ [Accessed 23 June 2017].