Outstanding CORTLAND, New York Stoneware Jug with Devil Face Decoration

March 24, 2018 Stoneware Auction

Lot #: 87

Price Realized: $20,060.00

($17,000 hammer, plus 18% buyer's premium)

PLEASE NOTE:  This result is 6 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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March 24, 2018 Auction Catalog

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Outstanding Two-Gallon Stoneware Jug with Cobalt Devil Face Decoration, Stamped "CORTLAND", Madison Woodruff and Romanzo Smith, Cortland, NY, circa 1867-1869, cylindrical jug with tooled shoulder and semi-squared spout, decorated with a slip-trailed design of a devil's head with beard, curled mustache, and brushed horns. Profuse slip-trailed spots accenting the eyes, nose, and head of the figure, contribute to the appeal of this striking folk portrait. Cobalt highlights accent the maker's mark, capacity mark, lower handle terminal, and an asterisk impressed above the decoration. This jug is regarded as one of the greatest stoneware works of Cortland, NY manufacture, and is the first example of American stoneware that we have seen with a slip-trailed design of a devil's face. The decoration features the distinctive beard found on this pottery's coveted "cat face" motif, although the depiction is altogether a completely different creature. Few representations of the devil, or devilish creatures, are known on American stoneware. A few important, devil-decorated pieces date back to the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and appear to reference the human vices of alcohol consumption and love of money. One, a jug with incised devil face, previously of the Barry Cohen collection, is illustrated and discussed in Sumpter Priddy's groundbreaking 2004 book, "American Fancy: Exuberance in the Arts, 1790-1840", and possibly alludes to the dangers of "Demon Rum"; a second incised jug bears a possible depiction of the Jersey Devil, exclaiming "MONEY", is attributed to the Morgan, van Wickle, and Green Pottery of Old Bridge, NJ, circa 1805-1822, and is illustrated in Warwick and Warwick, "A Sighting of the New Jersey Devil on a Stoneware Jug", Ceramics in America 2008. The Cortland devil design, as it does decorate a jug (which may have held alcohol), could have some significance to ideas of the evils of alcohol consumption or the Temperance Movement. At any rate, the design appears to have more of a playful sentiment than one of rebuke. A sweet odor on the interior indicates the jug, for at least the end of its life of use, held molasses and not alcohol. An antique wooden stopper is included. Defined by its imaginative and highly-expressive style, the Cortland devil jug transcends the stoneware medium as a significant work of ceramic folk art. We consider it among the very best cobalt depictions of a face known on a piece of American stoneware. Provenance: A fresh-to-the-market example, purchased by the consignor in the 1970s or early 1980s in New York State. Excellent condition with an approximately 1" chipped section to base. Otherwise minor flaws, including a small chip to underside, a tiny nick to spout, a 1 3/4", in-the-firing contact mark to one side of jug, and some staining to opposite side of jug. H 13 1/4".

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