Important Pair of Shenandoah Valley Redware Whippets, Samuel Bell, Winchester, VA, 1841


July 20, 2013 Stoneware Auction

Lot #: 219

Price Realized: $115,000.00

($100,000 hammer, plus 15% buyer's premium)

PLEASE NOTE:  This result is 11 years old, and the American ceramics market frequently changes. Additionally, small nuances of color, condition, shape, etc. can mean huge differences in price. If you're interested in having us sell a similar item for you, please contact us here.

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July 20, 2013 Auction Catalog

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Very Rare and Important Pair of Shenandoah Valley Redware Whippets, Both Signed "Samuel Bell / Winchester Sept 21 1841," Winchester, Virginia origin, matched pair of molded redware whippet figures with incised details to face and paws, both dogs painted black with white-and-red eyes and red mouths, reclining atop green-painted bases with incised borders. Left whippet incised on underside in script "Samuel Bell / Winchester Sept 21 1841". Right example incised on underside in script "Samuel Bell / Winchester Sept 21 1841" and again along opposing section of underside "Winchester Sept 21 1841". Right whippet is additionally impressed twice along the base, "S. BELL," in a small-sized font. This extremely rare variation of the Samuel Bell maker's mark is believed to be the potter's earliest stamp, used only on redware pieces produced in Winchester, VA. No stoneware products have been documented bearing this mark, and it is possible that the typical "S. BELL" mark with larger font emerged shortly before Samuel left Winchester to establish his Strasburg shop in 1843.

The Bell whippet remains one of the most iconic and highly-prized forms in the genre of Shenandoah Valley pottery. Attesting to the notoriety of these figures is the gilt-accented image of a whippet, which adorns the cover of Alvin H. Rice and John Baer Stoudt's 1929 book, The Shenandoah Pottery. The stately canine form was produced on occasion by several members of the Bell family in Waynesboro, PA, Winchester, VA, and Strasburg, VA, though few examples have survived to this day. These figures are two of a small number of whippets known to have been produced by Samuel Bell relatively early in his career, while working at the shop of his father, Peter, in Winchester, VA. In 1843, Samuel would travel to nearby Strasburg and establish a prolific shop that would operate for the next seventy years.

Both of these whippets have the distinction of being the first produced by Samuel Bell in Winchester to be offered at auction in decades, if ever. Adding to the rarity of both figures are their green-painted bases, as all other previously-documented examples by Samuel are painted solid black. Both are also the only two identically dated and painted whippets known, having begun life together and remaining as such for the last one-hundred and seventy years. They carry an impeccable provenance, having descended directly to the consignor in the Williams family of land and woolen mill owners of Winchester, Virginia. Members of this family once owned land on what is now the well-known local landmark, Apple Blossom Mall, located on the South side of Winchester. It is believed that both whippets were purchased or specially-ordered directly from Samuel Bell in 1841, and have remained in the Williams family ever since. Together they represent the most significant discovery in Shenandoah Valley pottery of the past decade. Few pieces of this quality have remained unknown to the greater collecting community for so long.

Provenance: Descended in the Williams family of Winchester, VA. Family history indicates both figures were likely purchased by a Williams family ancestor directly from Samuel Bell in 1841. Condition of left whippet: Painted surface survives in excellent condition. A 1 1/4" chip to one corner, which is covered in original paint, and presumably occurred in-the-making. A 1/2" x 3/4" edge chip on reverse with a thin 2" crack extending from it. Condition of right whippet: Painted surface survives in excellent condition with only minor wear. Head reglued with thin line of painted touch-up around neck crack. Filled and colored chip on back of head. L (of each figure) 9 3/4".

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