Extremely Rare and Important Redware Figure with Elaborate Punchwork and Robin's Egg Blue Paint, Incised "R.F. Bell," Richard Franklin "Polk" Bell, Strasburg, VA, fourth quarter 19th century, molded classical figure on base, the standing figure dressed in a toga and holding a cup. Surface of figure elaborately-decorated with incised marks and impressed circles. Surface covered in original robins egg blue paint over white paint or slip. Incised in large letters on underside "R.F. Bell". An interesting aspect of this figure, which we have not observed on any other documented examples of Bell molded figures, is its hand-modeled hat. Profusely-decorated with incised strokes and impressed ovals, we believe this hat may be meant to represent a sun bonnet, and that the figure may be R.F. Bell's interpretation of a Southern belle. This figure descended in the family of Betty Cooley, R.F. Bell's wife. Bell's courting of Cooley is recounted in Rice and Stoudt's The Shenandoah Pottery, pp. 57-60. According to p. 57 of this book, Bell made several special pieces of pottery for the Cooley family, stating "numbers [of pieces] were obtained at the Cooley homestead". Among them are an important pair of eagle-decorated redware urns, currently in the collection of the Henry Francis du Pont Wintherthur Museum. Because this figure descended in the Cooley family, it may have been a presentation item which Bell made for his wife or another member of her family. Interestingly, the cup in the figure's right hand has a hole incised into it, perhaps for holding a flower. This important figure is the first example produced by the Bell family to be offered at auction in years, if not decades. It is likewise the first example of signed R.F. Bell pottery, of which few pieces are known, to be offered at auction that we can ever recall. With outstanding provenance and a stately presence, this statue is one of the most important pieces of Bell pottery to be sold in years. Provenance: A recently discovered example, having descended in the family of Betty Cooley, the wife of potter, Richard Franklin "Polk" Bell. Bonnet and head reglued. Wear to paint. H 16".
Browse July 17, 2010 Catalog: