A small chapter in the history of the American pottery industry is set to be illustrated with a significant piece to go on display at the New York State Museum.
The early 19th Century double-handed jug, purchased at auction by stoneware collector Adam Weitsman twelve months ago for the price of $138,000, has been donated, along with four other pieces, to the Albany-based museum that boasts an impressive range of early American decorative art. The prices that such items achieve demonstrate the relevance of stoneware old and new to the contemporary American market, be it for the historic, decorative or practical value of a given piece.
The jug’s elaborate decorative incisions include the name Benjamin Herington, a potter drowned in Norwich, Connecticut in 1823 at the age of 22. It is believed that the jug was manufactured in the same area in the wake of this incident as a memorial piece. The rich incisions, along with the direct association of the piece with an individual potter and an event of historical relevance to the industry, make the jug a standout feature of the museum’s collection.
The “presentation piece” was produced at around the same time as the proliferation of utilitarian stoneware coming out of the UK from companies such as Denby, owing to developments in kiln technology. It pre-dates the Arts and Crafts Movement that took hold towards the end of the century, making it an example of early decorative American stoneware with a practical sensibility. In this manner the piece is very much within the tradition of stoneware production through history and up to the modern day, with decorative qualities being redundant without a functional purpose.
British stoneware company Denby have their own rich history dating back over 200 years, starting with salt glazed bottles through to the beautiful modern ranges of table and cookware that they sell today.
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