Published: December 8, 2020
SPARKS, MD. – The cover lot went for a banner price at Crocker Farm’s Fall 2020 sale that extended in a timed online format from November 20 to December 4. A 4-gallon stoneware presentation cooler with an elaborate incised and cobalt-decorated ship to its front sold for $252,000. The cooler featured an inscribed dedication to John B. Wilson, was dated 1839 and was attributed to South Amboy, New Jersey potter Abial Price.
“This work features one of the finest renderings of a sailing ship in American-made ceramics, noteworthy in its size and detail,” the auction house wrote of it. The decoration across the front was 12 inches long on the 16½-inch-high cooler.
It had previously been sold by Leigh Keno at The Philadelphia Show just over a decade ago.
The result is a record for any piece of New Jersey stoneware and only the sixth piece of cobalt-decorated stoneware to break the $200,000 mark at auction.
The firm’s partner Mark Zipp said he had three bidders in over $100,000 and it sold to a New Jersey collector.
“It was the best ship I’ve ever seen,” Zipp said. “It is really finely done and very large, but the intricacy and depth of the incising was remarkable. And then when you put that on a cooler, it takes it to a whole new level. This was a stylish form, it had double open handles, and then the 1839 date and the presentation name. It had a lot going for it, you couldn’t ask for a whole lot more in a piece of stoneware.”
New Jersey potter Abial Price was grandson to Xerxes Price and son of Ebenezer Price, both potters themselves. Zipp said that Abial Price did not have a maker’s mark and only two examples exist with an incised signature of the potter.
“The flower on the reverse, a big tulip flanked by leaves that are shaped like a wreath, are as good as a signature for Price,” Zipp said, noting the potter’s use of the design in other works.
Watch for a full sale review in a future issue.
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