Important J. & E. NORTON / BENNINGTON, VT Stoneware Water Cooler w/ Four Pheasants and House

March 19, 2016 Stoneware Auction

Lot #: 1

Price Realized: $34,500.00

($30,000 hammer, plus 15% buyer's premium)

PLEASE NOTE:  This result is 8 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:  Greatest Hits | March 19, 2016 Auction | New England Stoneware | Norton Pottery | Vermont Stoneware

March 19, 2016 Auction Catalog

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Important and Very Rare Six-Gallon Stoneware Water Cooler with Panoramic Cobalt Pastoral Scene Featuring Pheasants and a Central Federal House Motif, Stamped "J. & E. NORTON / BENNINGTON, VT.", circa 1855, large-sized, keg-form cooler with tooled and cobalt-highlighted banding, the base with circular bunghole decorated with slip-trailed spots, surrounded by a cobalt band. Additional cobalt highlights to maker's mark and six-gallon capacity mark. Body of cooler exuberantly-decorated around its circumference with an elaborate pastoral scene. Decoration features a central Federal house-on-hill motif depicting two structures with circular window at peak and rectangular windows throughout, the house in the foreground with additional wing extending to the left. The house designs are surrounded by a profuse and artistic slip-trailed scene of four classic Norton pheasant-on-stump motifs extending around the body of the cooler. Five pine trees, four split-rail fences, and heavy ground cover complete the view. The style and quality of the design indicates it was executed by noted stoneware decorator, John Hilfinger (1826-1888), an itinerant artist born in Wurttemberg, Germany, who was active at several potteries in New York State and New England during the third quarter of the 19th century. Hilfinger's finest work is found on Norton family stoneware from Bennington, where he was employed from 1855 to 1864. Coolers such as this example, which would be prominently displayed in a house or public setting, served as wonderful opportunities for a decorator to present his skill and promote the pottery business he worked for. As is the case with many of the great Norton pieces with multiple motifs represented, a concept of scale is irrelevant to Hilfinger. In a whimsical folk art style, the pheasants appear larger than the houses and trees. This cooler is the largest J. & E. Norton cooler we have seen available for sale. Two larger figural-decorated coolers, considered among the greatest examples of American stoneware known, are in the collections of the Bennington Museum and Smithsonian Museum of American History. The monumental size of the cooler to be auctioned translates to a larger-than-usual decorative band around the cooler's midsection, standing 8 1/4" tall. This important work is arguably the finest of three Norton coolers from this period we have offered. Provenance: A fresh-to-the-market example, purchased by the consignor decades ago. A sealed curving crack from rim on left side of cooler's front, measuring 9" in vertical distance from rim to midsection. A 2" Y-shaped surface line on left side of cooler, not visible on interior. A tight 2 1/4" hairline at base, continuing roughly 3 5/8" onto underside. A chip to bottom edge of bunghole. Small rim chips. A 3/8" hairline from rim. A few in-the-firing iron pings. H 16".

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