Important JOHN BELL / WAYNESBORO Stoneware Jar Made for Annie Bell by Husband Victor Conrad Bell

Fall 2020 Stoneware Auction

Lot #: 189

Estimate: $4,000-$6,000.  A Note About Estimates

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Fall 2020 Auction Catalog

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Exceedingly Rare and Important Four-Gallon Lidded Stoneware Jar with Cobalt Floral Decoration and 1874 Date, Inscribed "A" and "VCB," Stamped "JOHN BELL / WAYNESBORO'," Victor Conrad Bell and possibly Solomon Bell, Waynesboro, PA origin, 1874, ovoid jar with heavily-tooled shoulder, semi-rounded rim, and ribbed lug handles, decorated on the front and reverse with a diagonal stem bearing three tulips with spotted stamens, applied over a slip-coated surface. Additional tulip motifs appear under each handle. Undulating vine decoration to shoulder on front and reverse. Inscribed with a brushed cobalt "A" at shoulder on one side, beside the date, "1874," under the handle. Impressed under opposite handle with John Bell maker's mark and four-gallon capacity. Cobalt highlights to handle terminals. Underside inscribed with the large cobalt initials, "VCB," for potter, Victor Conrad Bell (1845-1925), son of John B. Bell (1800-1880). Includes original lid with tooled edge and cobalt tulip decoration, impressed with John Bell maker's mark on underside. This jar was made by Victor Conrad Bell for his wife, Annie E. Bell (1844-1918), in 1874. It is closely-related to a two-gallon jar bearing the cobalt inscriptions, "A" and "V.C. Bell" on the side, as well as the incised inscription, "Made by Solomon Bell for Annie Bell January 1, 1874," on the underside. A second related jar bears the very similar decoration to the body and shoulder, a brushed 1874 date, and the inscription, "Made by Solomon Bell for Tillie Bell January 1, 1874." Matilda Catherine "Tillie" Bell (1838-1901) was one of John Bell's daughters. Her presentation jar, like the Annie Bell jars, includes a "T," for Tillie. A third related jar bears no inscription, but was presumably also made for Tillie. It includes two brushed 1874 dates and the initial "T" a the shoulder. It is likely that all four jars were made on January 1, 1874, or within a day or two of each other, when the Strasburg, Virginia potter, Solomon Bell, was visiting the family of his brother, John, in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania. Evidently, this visit led to a series of family pots being made. As noted by John Kille in his Ceramics in America 2005 article, "Bell Family Presentation Jar," and discussed in Rice and Stoudt's The Shenandoah Pottery, Victor Conrad Bell severed an artery in his wrist as a child, making it difficult for him to throw pottery. As a result, he served as a decorator at the family shop. As two of the related 1874 jars bear Solomon Bell signatures (one even including both Solomon and Victor Conrad's signature), it is highly likely that this jar was thrown by Solomon and decorated by Victor Conrad as a gift to the latter's wife. (Victor Conrad's choice to inscribe this jar with cobalt as opposed to cutting into the clay may be meant to signal that he was its decorator and not its thrower.) This jar is a highly-important example of Bell family pottery, bearing the stamp of the father and signature of the son, with a possible third hand, a well-known uncle, involved in its production. Decoratively-speaking, the jar is an excellent work, featuring unusual added vining at the shoulder, a desirable splayed tulip variant, additional decoration under each handle, and even a date. Perhaps more importantly, the wonderful family history involved in this work, connecting father and son as well as husband and wife, add emotion and meaning to an already-beautiful object. An approximately 7 1/2" spider crack from rim on reverse. An additional thin 4" crack from rim on reverse. Otherwise excellent condition. Lid in excellent condition with one shallow chip to flange on underside. H (excluding lid) 12 1/2"; Diam. (of lid) 10 1/2".



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