Extremely Rare and Important Anna Pottery Centennial Snake Temperance Jug

October 25, 2014 Stoneware Auction

Lot #: 20

Price Realized: $87,400.00

($76,000 hammer, plus 15% buyer's premium)

PLEASE NOTE:  This result is 10 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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October 25, 2014 Auction Catalog

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Extremely Rare Stoneware Temperance Centennial Jug with Profuse Applied Snake Decoration, Inscribed "By / Kirkpatrick / Anna Union Co. Ill / Jan. 1st 1876," Wallace and Cornwall Kirkpatrick, Anna, IL, ovoid jug with tall neck and semi-rounded spout, the handle in the form of a large snake devouring the torso of a man extending from an opening in the shoulder of the jug, the remainder of the jug's surface covered in thirteen additional snakes, a frog, and the bottom half of a human figure "going in." The torso at the jug's shoulder includes fine detail in the Anna style, including a pained expression on the man's face, as well as parted hair, a high-collared shirt, and coat.

The body of the jug is profusely decorated throughout with entwined snakes of various sizes, slithering through and across the vessel's surface. Each snake includes superb cross-hatched scale detail and impressed circular eyes. Four snakes near the protruding torso feature gaping mouths, ready to strike. Two other snakes include pierced circular openings at the center of their mouths. A molded and applied frog appears to the right of the central human figure. Another molded figure of a man's rear end with coat tails enters the jug from the side, with incised inscription "nice young man Just going in" underneath. Side of jug incised with a Kirkpatrick signature, followed by a historically-significant New Year's Day Centennial Date: "By / Kirkpatrick / Anna Union Co Ill / Jan 1st 1876." Evidently, the brothers were intent on making a special piece on the first day of America's Centennial Year, presumably as a commemorative or celebratory object.

The surface of the jug is covered in a visually-appealing, reddish-brown Albany slip glaze. The fact that the incised inscriptions were created after the jug was dunked in the slip adds to their legibility and visual appeal, as the light clay below is revealed in a sgraffito manner.

This tour-de-force of American folk sculpture is noticeably similar to two jugs presented by the Kirkpatricks to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition later that year. It has been theorized that this jug was a prototype for these gifts. The jug to be auctioned features an impressive total of fourteen snakes in striking, stalking, slithering, and coiled poses. Their realness to the viewer may be attributable to the brothers' fascination with living, breathing snakes. The snakes appear active and alive, perhaps best expressed by the large serpent handle, which drags the woeful figure at an angle, headfirst from the depths of the jug.

This work appears as a melding of folk and academic art, skillful throwing and sculpting coupled with a folk artist's sensibility and charm. It is art imitating life in a manner only the Kirkpatricks were capable of.

Excellent overall condition for an Anna Pottery temperance jug, a form which typically experienced damage during and after the firing. Two segments of a smaller snake are reglued, as is the head of one of the smaller snakes. Typical losses to coattails of figure "going in." Arguably one of the finest-conditioned Anna temperance jugs in existence. H 10 3/4".

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