A Gilded Cup and Saucer Have Quite a Story to Tell
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1ST DIBS, August 1, 2016 - New Orleans shop M.S. Rau Antiques is selling an antique cup and saucer made of fine German porcelain with a great provenance and a wonderful backstory. Signed twice on the bottom, it is from the renowned KPM Berlin porcelain factory, which was founded by Frederick the Great in 1763 and continues to operate today. It is celebrated for the quality of its china and the fact that highly trained individual artists still paint the decorations on freehand, which makes every ornamented piece unique.
Rau’s antique gilded cup, with lion paw feet, is called a “narrative” cup because the painted decoration on it tells a story. An unknown person in Germany commissioned it sometime between 1844 and 1847. The colorful, beautifully detailed scene depicts a curious incident. It shows a woman descending from an elegant carriage in front of Berlin’s opera house. A gentleman on the street approaches the carriage to lend a supporting hand. As the woman steps down, she hands the stranger her opera glasses for safekeeping. Instead of giving her his arm, the gentleman apparently flees with her binoculars.
The painting in the center of the saucer, hidden when the cup is in place, is even more curious. The gentleman thief is tipping his hat (perhaps in triumph?), while above him floats, enlarged, the elegant opera glasses he stole.