Published: April 18, 2023
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Photos Courtesy Crocker Farm
SPARKS, MD. – When Crocker Farm concluded its Spring 2023 auction of stoneware and redware on April 1, the tallied results totaled $1.85 million. All but one of the lots sold, out of an approximately 500 lots, of which about 400 were featured in the print catalog, the rest of which were those that had been consigned for sale after the catalog went to press.
“It was an awesome auction,” said Luke Zipp. “At first, when we were first doing these sales in 2004, the ceiling for a sale was about $500,000 and now we’re regularly going well past the $1 million mark, but this was the second highest sale total, by a lot. We’re seeing a lot of new bidders and buyers, including young ones, which we’re very thankful for. Stoneware is approachable – people can understand it and learn about the makers; I think that has something to do with the growing market. Also, museums have recently become very interested in acquiring stoneware and it’s trickling down to the collector market.”
“Front-loading” is auction-world parlance for selling the most valuable items at the beginning of the sale, the thinking that those who underbid those lots will still have funds to pursue other items that are offered later in the sale. Case in point, the sale’s first lot – a cobalt decorated stoneware ring flask – sold for $204,000. Not only was it the highest price of the day but the result set a new record for Virginia stoneware, shattering the previous record of $92,000. Several elements distinguished the piece, most notably the inscribed name “George Duncan,” the Loudon County potter for which no other existing signed piece is known. Joining the Federal patriotic eagle and verse decoration, the piece was further inscribed “Enoch Dove,” who the flask was likely made for. Zipp revealed it had surfaced in the Midwest and confirmed it had been purchased by ceramics expert, editor and advisor Rob Hunter, who was bidding on behalf of the William C. and Susan S. Mariner Private Foundation.
Just a few lots later in the sale, another auction record was set, this time at $144,000, for a third quarter Nineteenth Century American face jug. Earning the distinction was an alkaline-glazed stoneware example from the Edgefield District of S.C. The piece, which was denoted by its large size (10Ã¾ inches high), free-moving kaolin eyes and exceptional condition, had been discovered in an antiques mall in the Midwest by the son of a ceramics professor. Though Zipp could not identify the name of the buyer, he confirmed it was an institution.
Another Edgefield face jug that followed it was described by Rob Hunter as “a rare example;” he acquired it for his own inventory, for $42,000. In his comments to Antiques and The Arts Weekly after the sale, Hunter said he bought for $19,200 a 3-gallon stoneware jug attributed to the Augustin Mareschal (Marshall) Pottery of Fairhope or Montrose, Ala., for MESDA and a Westerwald jug of large rare size, for $8,400.
Northern stoneware saw its apex in the sale’s fourth lot, a 4-gallon stoneware jar made by the Nathan Clark Pottery of Rochester, N.Y., which featured a standing deer and boldly impressed maker’s name. It found a new home with a private collector in Pennsylvania for $72,000, the third highest result of the day. Zipp noted that it had been consigned from another Midwest collection and said it was “one of the nicest examples of Rochester stoneware we’ve ever handled.”
Another private collector also paid $72,000 – and beat out underbidder Rob Hunter – for a stoneware flask with reddish glaze attributed to the Crolius family of Manhattan, N.Y., second or third quarter Eighteenth Century. Though the flask was not signed, it bore the same stylized foliate decoration as that featured on a four-sided tea cannister sold at Crocker Farm in 2018 and drew parallels to the same freehand incising of William Crolius’ circa 1773 heart-shaped inkstand at the Metropolitan Museum.
A stoneware pitcher with an elaborate incised and cobalt decorated bird scene by Henry Remmey Sr of Baltimore earned $57,000, a sizeable increase over its $20/40,000 estimate, despite the fact that it had been sold at Crocker Farm in 2007, for $69,000. Zipp reported it found a new home with a private collector in the South.
A batter pail by Cowden & Wilcox of Harrisburg, Penn., which featured three images of the “Man in the Moon,” achieved $54,000, more than twice its high estimate from a private collector. Zipp acknowledged the result was “certainly a record for a Cowden & Wilcox batter pail.” When asked, he noted the market for central Pennsylvania stoneware is particularly hot, pointing to its artistic decoration, and there is a large surviving body of superlative examples as a reason for the depth of interest.
Several good examples of Moravian green-glazed redware animal-form flasks and bottles have come to market recently, notably a large fish flask that set a new record for a Moravian bottle when it sold in New York City in January for $138,600. Crocker Farm received from the same Kentucky seller a turtle bottle and a fish bottle just after the catalog went to press but featured them on an inserted addendum. Offered first, the fish flask swam to an unidentified institution for $30,000; the turtle bottle sold for $45,000 to a private redware collector who fended offtwo other advanced redware collectors.
A stoneware jug from Morgantown, W.Va., featured the cobalt scene of an Indian chief and woman, a decorative motif so unusual it was immediately recognizable as being the same jug sold March 23-25, 1939, at New York City’s Parke-Bernet Galleries, from the collection of New York financier, Alfred Barmore Maclay (1871-1944). A stoneware collector in the American South paid $25,200 for it.
A redware collector from New York paid $24,000 for a redware jar, described as “exceptional” with “profuse” slip decoration that Luke Zipp said was probably from Norwalk, Conn. Dating to the early to mid-Nineteenth Century, Zipp said it was “characteristic” of Norwalk’s production and was “absolutely remarkable…in incredible condition.”
Crocker Farm’s next auction of redware and stoneware will take place in July, date to be announced.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house. For information, www.crockerfarm.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or 410-472-2016.
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