Mancerina (saucer for a chocolate cup)
Real Fábrica de ALCORA,1740 – 1760.
The Royal Factory of Alcora was founded in 1727 by the Count of Aranda. Alcora developed in its early days a production of glazed ceramics, including sculpture, to which series such as the Bérain, the Olerys or the chinesca belong, to which our “mancerina” belongs. The latter was developed between 1735 and 1760, and was created by Miguel Soliva. This polychrome series marked the introduction in Spain of the theme of chinerías, decorations inspired by those of oriental porcelain exported to Europe. It is based on floral decorations, animals, figures and architecture, all endowed with a certain exotic air. It coexisted with the Bérain series, but the chinerías show a more clearly rococo style due to their theme. However, in general the baroque forms were maintained, as we see here (the wavy profile is due to the typology of the mancerina itself). These decorations of the Chinese series are made in cobalt blue on a white slip, and once these first colors are fired, at high temperature, enamels are added on the cover: red, yellow and low temperature greens (in fact it will be one of the first Alcora polychrome series). These decorations are based on interpretations of the kakiemon style of Japanese porcelain: branches, insects, birds, etc., but otherwise it is a series of great personality, characterized by totally fantastic images, with pointy-eared characters and imaginary birds.
A mancerina is a small plate with a raised ring in the center. The raised ring holds a small chocolate-filled cup in place and prevents it from sliding off of the plate. The mancerina was developed to prevent Spanish nobles from spilling chocolate beverages on themselves. In the 17th century, chocolate in Spain was associated with royalty and indulgence. Wealthy, high-ranking members of society consumed the exotic and decadent drink at parties, often while dancing . The mancerina thus allowed people to consume their beverage while they danced, without fear of spilling it. The mancerina, therefore, was integral to the culture of chocolate consumption in Spain, marked by nobility and excess.
Although the mancerina is a symbol of 17th-century Spanish chocolate consumption, it was not invented in Spain. Actually, it was invented by Don Pedro Alvarez de Toledo, the Marquis of Mancera. There are two versions of the invention: the fist one tells that the Marqués of Mancera, viceroy of Peru, while strengthening Spain’s military infrastructure within Peru, was also known for hosting tertulias, discussion parties with literary, artistic, or political overtones. It is hypothesized that at one of these events, he observed women of the aristocracy attempting to drink chocolate from regular cups and it spilling down their dresses (Coe and Coe, 135). He noted this challenge and later commissioned the first mancerina. The first one, tells that the Marquis witnessed a Lady at a royal gathering spill chocolate on herself . As a result, he commissioned a silversmith in Lima to craft a saucer with a raised center capable of balancing a cup to prevent spills: the mancerina (Coe, 1996). The mancerina was eventually brought to Europe and crafted using porcelain instead of silver. The other “origin story” around the creation of the mancerina is based within the namesake himself; Pedro Álvarez de Toledo y Leiva, Marqués of Mancera and viceroy of Peru from 1639-1648. This story tells us that the Marqués suffered from palsy and that a rim was specifically built into his saucer in order to prevent him from spilling the chocolate beverage when he picked it up. (Gavin, Pierce and Pleguezuelo, 68).
The invention of the mancerina reinforced chocolate’s association with royalty and indulgence in Spain.
Alcora was the first center in Spain and Europe to produce the mancerina in ceramic.