Romantic transmigration of images and its mystery - Spode Porcelain, Dollar Pattern (continued)
by Etsuko Zakoji

Figure 1b What is this pattern? Where is it derived from?

The characteristics of the pattern are the two almond shaped circles depicted with the two vertical lines. It seems to me that the circles signify either roots or branches.
Figure 3 If they were roots, it is possible to view this as a degenerate Root Pattern, the original of which depicts a flowering prunus tree with gnarled and twisted roots. Root Pattern is one of the most popular patterns copied by European and it is often found in examples of porcelain at Worcester.

Another important point relating to the investigation of the origin of the pattern is its whole composition. The "Dollar Pattern" is always depicted in a kind of Cartouche or segmented area. This composition is probably derived from KRAAK porcelain which was exported to Europe from China in the 17th century and became very popular.

Figure 4 When the Chinese ceramic industry declined owing to the civil war in the middle of 17th century, the Dutch East India Company found its alternative in Japan. Therefore the Japanese version of KRAAK porcelain was produced and exported to the West like this example you can find in V&A museum in London now.

Figure 1b The strangest characteristic of the so-called "Dollar Pattern" is found in an unrealistic representation of the three dimensional space around the two circles. The bigger, lower circle is pierced by a vertical line (trunk), but the vertical line continues upwards without piercing the other, smaller circle above. The other vertical line is depicted behind the two circles without piercing them. This has a slightly surreal quality.Figure 4a The pattern in the Japanese KRAKK porcelain also shows an unrealistic representation in the two circles. The trunk piercing the bottom circle disappears in the upper circle and reappears on the top of the circle. Here too we see another departure from reality. These unrealistic points might be the result of a misunderstanding when copying from Chinese originals.

There can be also another interpretation of the two circles as a depiction of branches. Figure 5 In Chinese porcelain, there are original examples of patterns existing in which the branches of a tree form a Chinese character representing something auspicious like longevity or happiness. It is possible that the craftsman in the Spode factory had seen a Chinese pattern of this kind in which the tree branches formed a character. He would have had no idea what the character meant. However, he would notice it was forming a character anyway and he tried to apply this kind of representation for his work. He tried to depict something like a letter. The effect still works for us. It looks like a letter and for our contemporary eyes the nearest equivalent is the US dollar symbol. Continues...

Copyright © 1994 Etsuko Zakoji

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