This mug is the product of a curious circumstance in the production and marketing of antique porcelains. At this time, China was exporting to England vast quantities of porcelain that were cheap enough to undersell the English porcelains. Even middle-class customers could own an inexpensive dinner service of Chinese porcelain. The English firms imitated these Chinese wares, hoping to compete, but it was a struggle. A firm like Caughley sometimes found it more economical to buy Chinese porcelains with blue decoration, add gilding or other refinements, then sell the finished product at a markup. When the English developed the art of transfer printing, they could mass-produce designs in imitation of Chinese patterns. Even so, the Chinese pieces were still cheaper than the English ones, even though they were always painted laboriously by hand then shipped halfway around the world. Then someone in China had the bright idea: Could Chinese potters copy the English printed designs . . by hand? As it happened, hand-painting a design in China and shipping it halfway around the world was still cheaper than producing printed pieces in England! This mug is Chinese porcelain that has been painted by hand in imitation of an English printed pattern like those found on Caughley and Worcester pieces. The Chinese never used transfer printing. The diaper border at the top is hand-painted, not printed, as it would be on Caughley porcelain. The fruit and leaf designs are hand-painted copies of a Caughley transfer-printed design. Geoffrey Godden comments on this practice: “The European retailer could order copies from China that, when imported, still undersold the original European product.” This tankard is from the same 1760-70 period as the Caughley pieces that it is imitating, but it is Chinese from start to finish. It is five and three-quarters inches tall and in perfect condition.
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