Published: February 16, 2012
After hiding away in private collections †and a California coat closet †for nearly 200 years, a valuable piece of early American decorative art returns home to New York, where it will be available for public viewing at the New York State Museum.
Longtime stoneware collector Adam Weitsman, president of Upstate Shredding, recently donated a Benjamin Herington double-handled jug with profuse decoration, which was made as a memorial to a 22-year-old potter who drowned in the Norwich, Conn., harbor in 1823. Four other stoneware pieces were included in Weitsman’s donation, the most recent of many donations over the years. The Adam Weitsman Stoneware Collection is on view in a gallery at the museum.
Two other jugs were in the donation: a 21½-inch-tall jug made in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., in the mid- to late 1800s and a 1-gallon stoneware jug decorated with the image of a ship, made in New York State between 1835 and 1846. Also donated by Weitsman were two water coolers made by Jonah Boynton of Albany that the museum described as being very important acquisitions purchased from New York City dealer Leigh Keno.
“The addition of these recent pieces of decorated stoneware surely put the New York State Museum on the map as having the premier collection of American stoneware. Not only are the decorations unique and outstanding as works of American folk art, but the documentation and history of these recent acquisitions enable us to learn so much more about the stoneware industry and those artists who left us such remarkable works of art,” said John Scherer, historian emeritus of the New York State Museum.
The Herington jug was bought last March at auction by Weitsman for the then-record-breaking price of $138,000. The Poughkeepsie jug was acquired at the same auction.
According to the auction house Crocker Farm, which handled the sale, “This jug [(Herington] is one of the most profusely incised examples of American stoneware known, and one of the most significant discoveries in the field over the past several years. The form and decoration are exceptional, and the ability to tie this piece to a known potter adds to its historical significance.”
Weitsman began collecting American stoneware at age 11 and made his first donation of more than 120 pieces to the museum in 1996. In a 2009 article for Antiques and Fine Art Magazine , “Art for the People: Decorated Stoneware from the Weitsman Collection,” Scherer wrote, “Since his initial donation Weitsman has continued to add at an aggressive pace to the museum’s holdings, making it the premier collection of American decorated stoneware in the country.”
The Weitsman Stoneware Collection is available to view at the New York State Museum in Albany in the Cultural Education Center on Madison Avenue. For information, www.nysm.nysed.gov or 518-474-5877.
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