Outstanding probably James River Basin, Virginia Stoneware Handled Flask Inscribed "C. Chain / 1851"

July 18, 2015 Stoneware Auction

Lot #: 68

Price Realized: $8,337.50

($7,250 hammer, plus 15% buyer's premium)

PLEASE NOTE:  This result is 9 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.

Auction Highlight:  July 18, 2015 Auction | Virginia Stoneware

July 18, 2015 Auction Catalog

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Exceedingly Rare Stoneware Presentation Flask with Cobalt Star and Floral Decoration, Inscribed "C. Chain / 1851", Virginia origin, probably James River Basin, 1851, wheel-thrown flask with flattened sides, small strap handle, footed base, and heavy-tooled spout with tapered mouth. Decorated on one side with the brushed cobalt name and date "C. Chain / 1851". Edge of flask decorated with a brushed cobalt star surmounted by three small flower blossoms. Reverse with floral brushwork surrounding a rectangular design in cobalt slip, possibly representing a book, tree stump, well, or monument. The reverse edge of the flask is additionally decorated with a second star below the handle, flower blossoms at the shoulder, and highlights around the handle terminals. The shape of this particular flask is very distinctive. The inclusion of a handle is unusual for this form in general, and this potter's specific method of flattening the vessel after throwing has resulted in a dramatic, almost squared, demarcation between the vessel's shoulder and body. The flask's full-bodied form, deeper than most American stoneware examples, has created space for ample cobalt decoration along its edges. The spout, composed of a heavily-ringed neck and tapered mouth, is closely related to the spouts of jugs produced decades earlier at Benjamin DuVal's stoneware manufactory in Richmond, VA. While the exact identity of the flask's owner, "C. Chain", is currently unknown, he may have been a free African-American named Cold Chain, who is listed in the 1830 Federal Census as living in Richmond, VA. Very few decorated stoneware flasks from the state of Virginia have survived. The color and spout construction of this example suggest it was probably made in the state's James River Valley, where a number of stoneware potteries were active during the first three quarters of the 19th century. This flask may have been made at a lesser known, or currently unknown, operation. The extreme rarity of this example is met with strong decorative appeal in its pleasant handled form, heavy cobalt brushwork, and freehand presentation inscription. Provenance: Originally surfaced over a decade ago at a Virginia auction. A less-elaborate example by the same maker, lacking the inscription, profuse decoration, and handle, was offered at Leland Little Auction in Hillsborough, NC in 2007. It had been found in Warren County, NC. Excellent condition with a shallow 7/8" spout chip. H 6 1/2".

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