I found this cup at a flea market. The original price was €5 and I ended up paying just €1. Don’t ask me how it happened, I am not good at haggling but it is “expected” at flea markets to negotiate a fair price for something you like. The truth was that I only had €3 in cash with me and I thought, I won’t be able to find anything for this price but I will have a look anyway. So I saw this dusty cup, amongst many other things, and I wasn’t sure wether I liked it or not, the porcelain seemed too thin and fragile and I wasn’t particularly attracted to the design. It even crossed my mind that it could have belonged to a children’s tea set but I took it anyway and I am happy that I did. On my way home I grabbed the cup again to look for details and suddenly I put it against the light and there it was, a vivid image of a geisha at the bottom of the cup! It was so unexpected that it felt a bit spooky at first, but once you see the image, it is so delicate that it becomes a beautiful surprise.
This artform is called Lithophane: “Lithophanes are three-dimensional translucent porcelain plaques which when backlit reveal detailed magical images” http://www.lithophanemuseum.org/lithophanes.html
Many historians argue that the inspiration for the idea came originally from China nearly a thousand years before in the Tang Dynasty but they were produced in Germany, France, Prussia and England around 1820’s.
“A lithophane presents a three-dimensional image -completely different from two-dimensional engravings and daguerreotypes that are “flat”. The images change characteristics depending on the light source behind them. Window lithophane panel scenes change throughout the day depending upon the amount of sunlight. The varying lightsource is what makes lithophanes more interesting to the viewer than two-dimensional pictures” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithophane
On another blog I found that this particular lithophane is from Japan and the featured geisha is called “Garland Geisha’ because of the wreath of flowers she has on her hair. I think it is amazing how many details you can get from this image… http://www.lithophane.org.uk/japanese/japanese.html
Besides the beauty of the cup I also love the way something as simple as a cup leads to the discovery of new things, how it opens a new world of knowledge and interests and how your impressions can change when you look at things in a different way…
To end up the afternoon I made a delicate Chinese Lung Ching, poured it into my new cup and waited to until the Geisha smiled at me again!