Van Cortlandt Family Stoneware Piece from New York State

Small-sized stoneware batter bowl with chicken pecking corn design, stamped "VANCORTLANDT / 1884," to be sold in our July 11, 2009 auction.
Small-sized stoneware batter bowl with chicken pecking corn design, stamped VANCORTLANDT / 1884, to be sold in our July 11, 2009 auction.
The chicken pecking corn motif, found primarily on pieces by several New York State and some New England makers, is one of the most recognizable designs in all of American stoneware. We’ve been consigned one of the most interesting examples of stoneware we’ve found decorated with this desirable scene for our July 11th auction. When I first saw this little piece, measuring just 5 1/4″ tall and 6″ wide from spout to rim, I was immediately taken with the size (especially considering the fact that this design is usually found on much larger pieces, usually between two and six gallons in size). This example holds only about a half-gallon.

While the reverse is decorated with a chicken pecking corn, the front features a design of a long-tailed bird perched on a stump. Based on the style of these designs, the pot was likely made at the Brady and Ryan pottery of Ellenville, NY, or the Adam Caire pottery of Poughkeepsie, NY. The form, like a cream jar with wide pouring spout, is highly unusual for New York State stoneware. We believe it is best classified as a batter bowl, with the tall, curved sides allowing for easy mixing. Its incredible condition suggests it saw little or no use.

Reverse of VANCORTLANDT batter bowl.
Reverse of VANCORTLANDT batter bowl.
The reverse bears the impressed name and date “VANCORTLANDT / 1884,” indicating that the pot was likely made as a presentation piece for a member of the prominent Van Cortlandt family of New York. Several Van Cortlandts are significant to New York state’s political history. Two Van Cortlands, Stephanus (1643-1700) and his brother Jacobus (1658-1739), served as mayor of New York City. Stephanus was also owner of large tract of land in Westchester County, NY, where Van Cortlandt Manor was built. This site can still be visited today, where tours of the many buildings and gardens are available. A second New York landmark, Van Cortlandt Park, which is located in the Bronx, is also named after Stephanus. A third Van Cortlandt, Frederick, built a mansion on this second site in 1748, which was used as George Washington’s headquarters for a period during the Revolutionary War. It was purchased by the City of New York in 1888, when it was converted into park land. Van Cortlandt Mansion now stands as a museum and includes many of the family’s original possessions. Since several Van Cortlandts were still living at Van Cortlandt Manor and Van Cortlandt Mansion during the 1880s, it is possible that the bowl we recently acquired was made for use on one of these two homesteads.

Regardless of who this piece’s intended owner really was, the exceptional size, form, and outstanding two-sided bird decoration, make it one of the more notable auction offerings of New York State stoneware in the past few years.



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Anna Pottery in Antique Week

Sold in our July 2004 auction, this exceptional Anna Pottery pig bottle realized $23,100--a world auction record for the form.
Sold in our July 2004 auction, this exceptional Anna Pottery pig bottle realized $23,100--a world auction record for the form.

Growing up, I remember reading about Anna pottery in antiques books and was always fascinated by the stuff. A large snake jug I saw in an art magazine particularly made an impression on me. The jug was made of blue-decorated stoneware, something my family had been selling at antique shows for years, and yet the object seemed like something altogether different. The level of sophistication of the jug was unlike most of the stoneware we had sold, or seen for that matter. It was imbued with a sense of motion and seemed alive as several hand-modeled snakes slithered across its surface and formed its handle. A horrified man ‘s head and limbs protruded through the walls of the jug, his body trapped inside. If one of these objects was discovered from a different pottery, it would be hailed as a potter’s single greatest masterpiece. What is amazing is that two brothers, Wallace and Cornwall Kirkpatrick, who owned and operated Anna Pottery in Anna, IL, from 1859 to 1896, produced a large number of these extraordinary items. The intricate detail evident in their snake jugs and other highly decorated stoneware pieces makes one wonder, “When did they find the time to make standard utilitarian pots?”

A world record for an Anna Pottery 'Shoo Fly' jug, this piece sold for $21,850 in our May 2007 auction.
A world record for an Anna Pottery 'Shoo Fly' jug, this piece sold for $21,850 in our May 2007 auction.

The cover story of the April 24th issue of Antique Week, entitled “Anna Pottery Full of Imagination,” focuses on the Kirkpatricks and their various products. Since setting a record for an Anna pig bottle back in 2004, we have been fortunate enough to handle several fine examples of the brothers’ pottery, and were contacted by Antique Week for their article. My father, Anthony Zipp, was interviewed and some of the pieces we have sold through our auction,  Crocker Farm, are pictured. This article discusses the personal lives and interests of the Kirkpatricks and offers insight into how these influenced their work. Numerous Anna pottery forms are discussed and opinions on the current market are presented. The article is both a visually-appealing and informative read. You can read an online version of the article here.

This excellent example of an Anna Pottery snake jug brought $21,275 in our November 2008 auction.
This excellent example of an Anna Pottery snake jug brought $21,275 in our November 2008 auction.

Anna Pottery has been steadily on the rise in value over the past several years. It remains highly desirable today for a few important reasons. To begin with, it is rare enough to keep serious collectors seeking it and the value high. Secondly, and most importantly, it is pleasing to the eye. In the antiques world in general,  collectors love figural forms. In Anna pottery, human and animal shapes abound. There are pig bottles, frog inkwells, applied dung beetles and salamanders, male and female figures, and  snakes of all sizes. Many such objects and vessles are incised with whimsical and humorous phrases, related to the Temperance Movement or local politics. The all-too-well-known pig bottle, which features a drinking spout at the pig’s rear, is often painstakingly incised with a map of the Midwest. The highly decorative nature of these objects have made them quite popular in folk art circles, of which stoneware may make up only a small percentage. Examples can be found in notable collections across the country, including the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum in Williamsburg, VA, and the American Folk Art Museum in Manhattan. Similar to Shenandoah pottery, Moravian redware, and Pennsylvania-German sgraffitoware, Anna pottery has managed to cross the boundary of limited, regional interest.

Finally, Anna pottery makes a statement and a lasting impression on us. It will turn heads and draw attention even from people who have little interest in antiques or ceramics. When I’ve told my late 20’s friends (who know nothing about antiques) about selling an Anna pig bottle with a hole in its rear, it initiates some sort of response, a chuckle or look of disgust, and suddenly they’re interested. (I can also remember a New England folk art dealer’s look of surprise when he saw the underside of an Anna shoo fly jug a few years back during our auction preview.) It is a testament to the ingenuity of the Kirkpatrick brothers that their cleverly-crafted pieces still elicit a response in us over a hundred years later. And it is the pieces that make the biggest impression on us that we remember the best, love the best, and are truly worth collecting.



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