Exceptional J. SWANN / ALEXA (Alexandria, VA) Stoneware Incised Ship Jar

Spring 2020 Stoneware Auction

Lot #: 35

Price Realized: $39,000.00

($32,500 hammer, plus 20% buyer's premium)

PLEASE NOTE:  This result is 4 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 | Spring 2020 Auction | Alexandria / DC Stoneware | Incised Stoneware

Spring 2020 Auction Catalog

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Exceedingly Rare and Important One-Gallon Stoneware Jar with Elaborate Incised Ship Decoration, Stamped "J. SWANN / ALEXA," Alexandria, VA origin, circa 1820, ovoid jar with tooled shoulder, rounded rim, and applied tab handles, decorated with an incised and cobalt-highlighted design of a two-masted sailing ship with finely-detailed rigging. Brushed cobalt slip delineates the border of the ship, forms its portholes, and creates a stretch of stylized water below. Reverse decorated with two stylized clovers, likely inspired by early Baltimore stoneware designs of the period. Heavy cobalt highlights to handle terminals. Several accolades qualify this jar as one of the finest examples of Northern Virginia stoneware known, as well as one of the finest examples of Southern salt-glazed stoneware to come to auction in the past decade or more. It is the only signed example of Southern-made stoneware known featuring a decoration of a sailing ship, and one of only two pieces of Alexandria stoneware known with incised decoration. (The second example is a highly-important water cooler made for merchant, J.W. Smith, at the pottery of Hugh Charles Smith, which bears various incised motifs and resides in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C.). The jar additionally bears one of the earliest impressed stamps found on Southern salt-glazed stoneware, that of Alexandria, Virginia potter, John Swann. As Swann's oeuvre is typified by dipped iron-oxide or generally-sparse brushed cobalt decorations, the design on this jar clearly defines this object as the potter's masterpiece. The jar's intricately-incised design may have been copied by the decorator from an image and was no doubt inspired by the harbor city's rich maritime history. Featuring the influence of the Northeastern style in its incised ship decoration, this jar is among the rarest and most visually-appealing examples of Virginia stoneware to come to auction in years. As this work bridges a gap between Northern and Southern decorative styles, its importance to the state's rich potting tradition cannot be overstated. Provenance: Discovered by the consignor in the basement of her grandmother's Warren County, PA farmhouse. Very nice condition. One handle with a 3/4" chipped section to front end and a small in-the-firing ping along edge. Opposite handle with a small, glazed-over chip to reverse end. Two small base chips, one of which is partially glazed-over. Additional very minor wear to bottom edge. H 8 1/2".

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