Exceedingly Rare and Important Anna Pottery Stoneware "Shoo Fly" Jug


October 28, 2017 Stoneware Auction

Lot #: 26

Price Realized: $41,300.00

($35,000 hammer, plus 18% buyer's premium)

PLEASE NOTE:  This result is 7 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 28, 2017 Auction Catalog

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Exceedingly Rare and Important Cobalt-Decorated Stoneware "Shoo Fly" Jug with Figural Handle, Signed "Anna Pottery / Anna / IL", Wallace and Cornwall Kirkpatrick, Anna, IL, circa 1880, ovoid jug with tooled, semi-rounded spout, the shoulder featuring a hand-modeled and applied figure of an African-American woman with arm embracing the spout. Figure includes a wavy-hemmed dress featuring elaborate striped and spotted cobalt decoration, along with cobalt highlights to the cuffs and collar of her blouse, as well as Albany slip highlights to her shoes. Excellent incised detail, consistent with the Kirkpatricks' best work, appears throughout the figure's face, head, along the stitch work and wrinkles of the blouse and dress, and forming the eyelets and soles of the shoes. The figure attempts to swat a molded figure of a fly, applied to the shoulder below the incised inscription "Shoo Fly". The reverse side of the jug includes the incised inscription, "Original Package", below the figure's dress, which includes a second molded fly on its interior. Areas of original cold-painted decoration are visible on the woman's face, shoes, hands, ankles, and legs, as well as highlighting the two applied flies. Consistent with the bawdy nature of much of the Kirkpatricks' work, one finds that the woman is wearing no underwear when the jug is turned over. The underside of the jug includes the incised signature, "Anna Pottery / Anna / IL". The phrase "Shoo Fly" is an apparent reference to the ubiquitous glass "shoo fly" flasks that came into vogue about this time. Known for having rounded sides in the manner of the Kirkpatricks' rendition, it is unclear from whence shoo fly flasks derived their name, but the term was certainly in use by the time this flask was made, and thus provided an opportunity for the Kirkpatricks, who were always quick to capitalize on a pun or other witticism: In this case, they use the name of the flask form to play off of the very popular tune of the time period, "Shoo Fly Don't Bother Me," written by a white man but whose long since censored lyrics were written as if sung by a stereotyped African-American Civil War soldier. The inscription, "Original Package," is probably an off-color pun, but as a phrase it was a common one in the commerce of liquor. As the temperance movement gained traction in the second half of the nineteenth century, local laws banning or otherwise regulating liquor sales often butted up against the concept of interstate commerce--which at least to some (including the Supreme Court, in one 1890 landmark decision) held that as long as the liquor remained in its original package, if imported into a state, it could be sold like any other good. While a number of Albany-slip-glazed "Shoo Fly" jugs by Anna Pottery have survived, only a very few salt-glazed examples are known, this jug regarded as the finest and best-conditioned among them. In addition, while the majority of Anna Pottery "Shoo Fly" jugs reveal significant damage to the woman's delicate skirt, this example survives in near-mint condition, with no damage to this area whatsoever. The remarkable condition of this jug is possibly emblematic of its impeccable provenance, having been kept within the Kirkpatrick family until it was purchased by the consignor from a descendant in the 1970s. This jug is easily considered one of the most important examples of cobalt-decorated stoneware with African-American subject matter in existence. Excellent condition with a minor nick to ear and typical wear to cold paint. H 6".

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