Monday, July 21, 2014

Circa 1880 Southern Stoneware African-American Face Vessel

Auction House description:
Very Rare and Important Large-Sized Southern Stoneware Face Vessel of an African-American Preacher, Rock Mills, Alabama School, circa 1880-1890, wheel-thrown figure with clasped hands and brimmed hat, the face with applied and incised features, including eyes with impressed pupils, thick eyebrows with incised hair, a large mouth with incised teeth, a chin, and ears with pierced centers. Reverse of head with applied and lightly-depressed clay representing hair. The figure's hat is wheel-thrown and applied, with heavily-incised rings around the brim, sides, and top. An incised cross on the reverse may represent an individual potter's signature or simply indicate the figure's Christian faith. A circular opening in the reverse, carved prior to the sculpture's firing, is possibly a vent hole to prevent damage during the firing process; it may have also served as a flower holder or granted access to the interior for storage. The figure's robust arms include well-defined fingers and impressed finger nails. Two small impressed holes in the underside of each arm likely served as vents during the firing. Surface covered in a streaky Albany slip glaze, with additional red cold-painted highlights to lips, hat, and eyebrows. John Michael Vleck, in his 1978 book, The African-American Tradition in Decorative Arts, studies a figure likely by the same maker. With similar form, size, facial structure, and virtually identical hat, Vleck describes this second example as "the masterwork among known ceramic torso figures". Vleck writes, “The best of the Alabama trio is called Preacher Man. It is a bulky figure more than sixteen inches high. Lacking a spout or lid, it is a functional vessel and can more easily be interpreted as a graveyard decoration. The torso section of the figure, in fact, has the same bell shape as ceramic supports for grave markes made in Alabama and Mississippi. As in the previously described piece, the hands are folded at the waist. The head is also topped with a hat, but in this case it is an exquisitely style skimmer. ... The face is impressively molded with eyes sockets that penetrate into the empty hollow center of the sculpture. The lips are wide and the nose broad in an apparent attempt to represent Negro facial features. The overall handling of mass and form in this piece is so impressive that it stands out as the masterwork among known ceramic torso figures. One scholar has remarked that the statue projects a kind of sympathy for a black subject. If, indeed, the figure was meant to depict a black man or preacher, it is a competent and well-executed statement. Since the features of this piece tend to favor abstract presentation over naturalism, it might be classed as a black creation. It is not clear how one safely measures such an intangible as ethnicity in a mute work whose only history is rumor. More information here would be helpful, but it would not be surprising to discover Afro-American origins.” (Vleck, pp. 92-93) The vessel Vleck is referring to was previously owned by prominent New York folk art collector, John Gordon, and sold in an auction of his collection at Christie's, New York in 1999. It is pictured in Vleck's book, The African-American Tradition in Decorative Arts, as well as Robert Charles Bishop's well-known book, American Folk Sculpture. As stated, a number of clear stylistic similarities link this face vessel to the example offered at Crocker Farm, Inc., in July. However, the face on the vessel to be auctioned is arguably more well-executed and expressive. Perhaps the greatest single difference between the two sculptures is the construction of the eyes. Gordon's example features sunken eyes assuming a somber tone. The eyes on the newly-discovered figure are bulging and lively with impressed pupils, creating a more pleasant or satisfied visage to the preacher. In addition, this figure's mouth, with its pinched, upward curling ends, creates a sort of smile, which is markedly different than the mouth of the Gordon example. Few American face vessels of this size and quality are ever made available on the secondary market. Even fewer can be described as new discoveries, unknown until only months ago. Most examples from the North, South, and Midwest, were collected decades ago, now part of major public and private folk art collections throughout the country. One of the most significant American stoneware face vessel discoveries of the past several years. Provenance: Recently found in a garage in the Chattahoochee River Valley. Literature: For similar examples, see Christie's, Jan. 15, 1999, The John Gordon Sale of Folk Americana, lots 1167 and 1168; see also p. 220, fig. 412 of American Folk Sculpture by Robert Charles Bishop. For more information on Alabama face vessels and additional photos of similar examples, see also pp. 92-93 of The African-American Tradition in Decorative Arts by John Michael Vleck, University of Georgia Press, 1978. Two large losses to hat. A very stable, in-the-firing separation at wrist. Minor chips to one eye and minor wear to edge of one nostril. Small chips to opening on reverse. H 16 3/4".

Sold for $46,000.00 (w/o premium) at Crocker Farm.

19th Century Southern Face Jug

Auction House description:
Outstanding Large-Sized Southern Stoneware Face Harvest Jug, possibly Alabama, fourth quarter 19th century, wheel-thrown face vessel in the form of a bearded man's torso with hands folded across his chest and large applied pouring spout on reverse. Face includes large, applied C-scroll ears, bulding eyes, nose, and well-detailed hair. Surface covered in a reddish-brown Albany slip glaze with large traces of later black overpaint. While the artist of this impressive example is unknown, he was clearly familiar with and adept at face vessel production. The skillful modeling of the face indicate a maker whose abilities rivaled many of the face vessel producers in the American South during the second half of the 19th century. The size and form, including the distinctive clasped hands, suggest this example may have been produced in Alabama in the Rock Mills potting style. That being said, the application of the face reveals a more refined hand than most or all Rock Mills school face vessels known. Excellent overall condition with small chips to hair, one chip to ear, and two very minor nicks to spout. H 14 1/2".

Sold for $14,500.00 (w/o premium) at Crocker Farm.

19th Century Stoneware Face Jug

Auction House description:
Exceedingly Rare and Important Cobalt-Decorated Stoneware Face Jug, Virginia origin, third quarter 19th century, narrow, cylindrical jug with tooled spout, applied handle, and salt-glazed surface, the front decorated with a large applied man's face with clay "coleslaw" beard. Face includes a semi-circular piece of clay forming the forehead, a Roman nose with depressed nostrils, eyes, ears, a chin, and mouth with incised teeth. A large, thickly-applied beard composed of extruded clay descends from the ears to the base of the jug. Heavy cobalt highlights to beard. Additional cobalt applied to eyes and nostrils. The form and distinctive spotted, iron-rich clay of the jug indicate it was produced in Virginia during the third quarter of the 19th century. The color, spotting, and shape of the jug are most typical of pieces produced in the Shenandoah Valley region of the state, primarily Strasburg, during the third quarter of the 19th century. Stylistic traits of the jug's form, spotting, and color, can be linked to the shops of Solomon Bell and Jeremiah Keister, among others. To date, only two other salt-glazed stoneware face vessels from Virginia have been recorded. A significant recent discovery in Southern American ceramics. Provenance: A fresh-to-the-market example, recently found in New York State. Two minor chips to top of forehead. An in-the-firing, glazed-over chip to forehead, mostly visible on reverse side of forehead. A few typical minor losses to beard. Chipping to edge of one ear. H 8 1/2".

Sold for $11,000.00 (w/o premium) at Crocker Farm.

Circa 1830 Stoneware Ring Flask

Auction House description:
Exceedingly Rare and Important Diminutive Stoneware Face Ring Flask with Incised Foliate Decoration, Inscribed "William Peirce" and "W.P. / 1830," probably Northeastern U.S. origin, 1830, diminutive circular flask with applied spout decorated with an applied clay face with pierced eyes, nostrils, and mouth, the eyebrows and hair with incised details. Body of flask decorated with an incised leafy vine. Incised in script below face, "William Peirce". Reverse incised with the initials and date "W.P. / 1830". Surface covered in a brown Albany slip glaze. A wonderful folk art form. One of only two American face ring flasks we have seen, this being the finer of the two. Provenance: A fresh-to-the-market example, purchased in the Northeastern U.S. approximately twenty years ago. A small spout chip and a minuscule nick to face's mouth. L 5 5/8".

Sold for $4,750.00 (w/o premium) at Crocker Farm.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Three Graces Table

Three standing nudes were carved in 1917 by a man in Eustis, FL. whose mother wouldn't allow the ladies in the house. The ladies were put in storage until Mom "met her maker." The table was made in 1960 and the ladies were added. Three carved wooden nudes - carved grapes under to top.  21"t x 30"l. The Table was exhibited at the Florida State Fair at which it won an award.

Sold for $1,400.00 (w/o premium) at Slotin, February 24, 2007.

Monday, July 7, 2014

A G.I. Fantasy

Seven drawings of World War II soldier Bill Bump's fantasy women. According to biographical information, Bill Bump was a small statured man standing 49 inches tall and weighing 122 lbs. Maybe that explains his caption on one of the drawings: "What strange things a tiny mouse can do!" Signed and dated 1944.

Available at Anonymous Works.