SPARKS, MD. — A rare stoneware pitcher with incised decoration of a standing lion with a New York City origin, possibly the only known one of its kind, leapt more than five times above its high presale estimate to bring $115,000 at Crocker Farm’s March 1 auction of stoneware and redware. The sale, which posted the firm’s usual solid prices for a diverse assortment of redware and stoneware, was the firm’s third best ever, according to owner Tony Zipp, with a gross of $555,651, 122 successful bidders and a number of new participants inside and outside the gallery. Also creating a flurry of bidder interest was a rare salt-glazed stoneware temperance jug with Civil War, slavery and American motifs that brought $69,000.
The auction house described the 2-gallon ovoid pitcher, possibly by the Crolius family and made in the second half of the Eighteenth Century or early Nineteenth Century, as a “significant recent discovery in early American stoneware.” That is because it is the only finely incised pitcher produced in Manhattan that Crocker Farm has seen with a motif other than a bird. The only other known example of a piece with incised lion decoration is in the collection of Yale University, according to catalog notes, donated by stoneware collector John Paul Remensnyder in 1977.
Typically for a Crocker Farm auction, the top lot was also the first lot out the gate among 460 lots offered. An endearing feature of the 14-inch-high lion pitcher was the animal’s head-on stare and its human-like face. The figure was further embellished with a flowing mane, incised claws and folky striped incising to the body, legs and long curling tail. It had been discovered in a home on the coast of New Jersey, part of the family household items that had made a move from Brooklyn, N.Y., decades ago. “Three collectors were on this lot,” said Zipp, and it was ultimately won by Adam Weitsman, noted New York stoneware collector.
Eighteen lots later another rare piece galvanized the gallery when the above-mentioned salt-glazed stoneware temperance jug crossed the block. Inscribed on the underside “From / Kirkpatrick / Anna Pottery / Anna / Union Co. / Ills.,” circa 1862, the bulbous jug with tall neck and squared spout featured profuse surface decoration with hand-modeled and molded figural designs and original polychrome paint.
Temperance jugs are, by definition, designed to give early rum pots the heebie-jeebies with visions of writhing serpents, demons and other vivid calamities. This example, however, was a tour-de-force, and included imagery that implied a nation split by Union and Confederate ideologies and by the struggle over slavery. These are played out in the bust of a Union Civil War soldier with goatee and kepi emerging from the jug’s shoulder, while being bitten by a snapping turtle, a central figure that may represent Abraham Lincoln, stoneware chain links connected at the spout suggestive of the bonds of slavery and a molded African American head.
There are very few Anna Pottery temperance jugs with significance to the American Civil War, according to the auction house, which characterized the piece as “the finest example of Anna Pottery to be offered anywhere in recent years.”
The Kirkpatrick name — two brothers from Ohio, Cornwall and Wallace, founded the Anna Pottery — was also affixed to a couple of rare and remarkable stoneware pig flasks, one with an incised depiction of Horace Greeley, signed “Kirk / Anna / Ills,” circa 1872, and the other a salt-glazed version of the reclining pig with the spout at its rear.
Covered in an Albany slip glaze, the Greeley flask used one side of the pig to incise a political cartoon of 1872 presidential candidate Horace Greeley with a speech bubble emanating from his mouth, declaring “What I know about trapping.” Greeley faces a trap in the form of a raised top hat propped up by a stick, incised “when this old white hat was new.” The trap lever is labeled “Presidency.” The remainder of the pig features an incised railroad map with various Midwestern cities and landmarks. Realizing $11,500, this flask is one of two known examples that feature an inscription extending from Greeley’s mouth, and believed to be the only example of the three Greeley pigs known bearing a Kirkpatrick signature.
The lot was accompanied by a framed Horace Greeley cabinet card and four issues of Harper’s Weekly magazine from 1871 and 1872, which included printed portraits and political cartoons featuring Greeley.
The salt-glazed stoneware pig flask, which took $10,350, was signed “Anna Ill / 1889,” with one side incised with the inscription “St Louis the Future Great / With a Little good / Old Rye in a Pig’s,” and the remainder incised with a railroad map of the Midwestern United States. Salt-glazed pig flasks produced by the Kirkpatricks are significantly rarer than their Albany-slip-glazed counterparts.
A late addition to the sale was an Anna Pottery stoneware snake jug, incised “Little Brown Jug / by / Anna Pottery / 1885,” an ovoid jug with Albany-slip-glazed surface, rare chip-carved base and tooled spout. Its handle a well-detailed snake whose head is incised with the word “Pizen,” a colloquial for “poison,” the jug was bid to $9,775.
A solid price was realized for a key redware lot — a rare large dog produced in a fetching pose and attributed to Solomon Bell, Strasburg, Va., in the third quarter of the Nineteenth Century fetched $19,550. The endearing canine with large lop ears, a curled tail and outstretched paws holds a basket of apples in its mouth. It is, to Crocker Farm’s knowledge, the only Bell redware dog in this stance.
The hammer came down at $7,475 for a small mid-Nineteenth Century stoneware water cooler stamped “R.W. Russell / Beaver, Pa,” and measuring 13½ inches in height. Its most unusual feature was a stepped pedestal base, its front lavishly decorated with a brushed plant emerging from the bunghole. Although impressed with a “3” signifying its capacity, when full the cooler measures just under 2 gallons, making it one of the smallest Western Pennsylvania coolers of this style known. It also exhibits a particularly-fine, stepped base, uncommon among most Western Pennsylvania pedestal coolers.
Prices reported include the buyer’s premium. For information, www.crockerfarm.com or 410-472-2016.