NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA– Every week, WGNO and the Historic New Orleans Collection bring you the story of a unique artifact from our city’s past. During the holiday season of 1858, a dotting father, gifted his infant little girl, Clara, with a porcelain tea cup and saucer for new years.
“What infant doesn’t want a teacup with her own picture and name on it” says Lydia Blackmore, the Decorative Arts Curator for the Historic New Orleans Collection.
At this time in history, it is quite more common for people to exchange presents during new years rather than on Christmas.
“What’s interesting, and the reason I pulled it today is that it’s painted by a local german painter, Rudolph T. Lux,” says Blackmore.
Besides sharing a first name with a well-known reindeer, Lux’s china made great Christmas Gifts!
Lux came to New Orleans in 1856. He started copying early photographs and printing them on porcelain. His shop was located somewhere on Carondelet street off of Canal street.
During her research, Blackmore discovered a lot about Lux’s life. She says, “he moved around a lot in the city, he seemed to have trouble paying his rent. The portrait painting tea cup business was not as fruitful as he hoped, so during the civil war he painted confederate generals on plates and during the union occupation, he painted union generals on plates.”
Fortunately or Unfortunately, there was no “Black Friday” experience back then. However the gifts meant something. Clara’s dad had a good reason to have his daughter’s picture taken.
“It was very common for children not to live to adulthood, so I’m wondering if Clara survived to adulthood to enjoy this piece,” says Blackmore.
Many ask what became of Rudolph Lux, the craftsman of fine fragile porcelain. Unfortunately his life would shatter one evening.
“He had quite a tragic end. One evening in July 1868, he was getting off the street car, when he was mugged, beat on the head and stabbed in the head. He died a few days later so he was murdered in New Orleans,” says Blackmore.
Tune in every Friday to see what we find out of the Historic New Orleans Collection.