Cup and Saucer

Go To Object Record

Art

This style of pottery is known as brown faience. It is identifiable by a dark brown lead glaze on the exterior, and a lighter tin glaze on the inside. This combination was less expensive than all white faience. Brown faience was unique to France in the 18th century, particularly Rouen where it originated.

Manufacture

This cup was thrown on a potters’ wheel, and the handle was shaped separately and applied to the turned body. The saucer was likely formed in a mold. Both were air dried to ensure the moisture was gone from the clay then fired in a kiln. If water remained in the clay it could explode in the hot kiln. Once cooled, the piece was then dipped into a liquid glaze composed of water, lead oxide, manganese, and powdered brick to cover the exterior. Once that was dry the inside was brushed with and enamel of tin and lead oxide and the whole piece was fired again at nearly 1800 degrees Fahrenheit (1000 Celsius) to fix the glaze, giving it a glassy finish.

Function

Unglazed pottery is porous and water will gradually seep through, like a flower pot. The glassy finish of the glaze made the surface impermeable and able to hold liquids, specifically hot ones judging by the small handle. Hot drinks like tea, coffee, and chocolate were extremely popular in the 18th century. They were introduced to the Western diet as European empires expanded across the globe and were influenced by the cultures they encountered.

Culture

These particular pieces of pottery were meticulously restored from fragments found in the ruins of Fort Ticonderoga. The glazed surface is cracked which indicates that they have been scorched in a fire. The saucer even has a glob of molten glass which adhered onto the surface in the intense heat. Given their French origin this cup and saucer were likely damaged in the 1759 fire that resulted after retreating French troops blew up Fort Carillon’s powder magazine, and which burned through the fort for five days. Mute testament to the dramatic events of Fort Ticonderoga’s military history.