My knowledge of antiques is limited to what I have absorbed while watching Antiques Roadshow, but I am trying to learn more. At least, I am trying to learn more about a handful of curious treasures that once belonged to my mother.
I can’t say why I fell so blissfully in love with this little moustache cup, which I don’t remember seeing as a child. After Mother’s car accident in 2011, we found the cup in an unlabeled box in her house, so its history is largely unknown. We suspect it is one of the many pieces collected by a great aunt who had a fondness for porcelain.
Last month, I decided to research the porcelain marks, which are clearly visible on both cup and saucer. The mark was harder to trace online than I had expected, but I eventually found a website (Porcelain Marks and More) that identified the mark as Bavarian, used between 1885 and 1902. While the date seems clear, I’m confused about the company name. Some sources say Sontag and Maisel, others Sontag and Sons. Also Royal Bayreuth. Perhaps all are correct? Or none? (Please respond, if you can help. I would love to know more about the mark, and about the cup.)
Now that I know something definite about them, I’m a bit overwhelmed by the cup and saucer. I’m terrified of breaking them, of being the final admirer of such lovely creations. I’ve considered finding a collector to protect and cherish them, to prevent their story ending with a crash and shatter on my worn kitchen floor. I’ve considered wrapping them as a gift for a friend, sending them to one of my more responsible sisters, or storing them in a box, where they would be more likely to survive their sojourn in my house.
But I’m having trouble making a decision. Like all of my treasures from home, the cup and saucer resonate with nostalgia and grief. There is nothing practical or useful about them, but some days I enjoy their glitter on my mantel. (Other days I hide them in a cabinet.)
And some days, like today, I marvel that such fragile, frivolous objects have endured so long and traveled so far, moving from hand to hand and home to home until arriving here. In my home. In my hand, where they mean so much and so little. Where they cannot possibly stay forever, because I cannot stay forever.
What will happen to them, after I am gone? What will happen to me?