Highly Important "Mrs. Elesebeth Tarbell / 1806" BOSTON Stoneware Jar

Spring 2021 Stoneware Auction

Lot #: 1

Estimate: $30,000-$50,000.  A Note About Estimates

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Spring 2021 Auction Catalog

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Sold!  $150000. 


Highly Important Open-Handled Stoneware Presentation Jar with Elaborate Incised Bird and Floral Decoration, Incised "Mrs Elesebeth Tarbell 1806," Stamped "BOSTON," Charlestown, MA, 1806, elegantly-potted, ovoid jar with flared base, tooled shoulder, narrow mouth, and open loop handles; decorated on the front with a large incised and cobalt-highlighted design of a bird perched on a sinuous branch and on the reverse with an elaborate flowering plant bearing two fan-shaped blossoms. Both designs feature excellent coverage over their respective sides of the vessel and include negative space to the incising, delineating the bird's wing on the front and the petals on the right blossom on the reverse. The incised and cobalt-highlighted inscription, "Mrs Elesebeth / Tarbell 1806," flanks the jar's incised floral design under the handles. Impressed with "BOSTON" maker's mark at shoulder and brushed with cobalt highlights at the handle terminals. This delicately potted and decorated work ranks among the finest examples of Massachusetts stoneware known and the finest bearing a Boston maker's mark. The jar descended in the family of its recipient, Elizabeth Cook Tarbell of Lynnfield, Massachusetts, wife of Revolutionary War veteran Jonathan Tarbell (c1742-1795). Jonathan Tarbell was the first cousin of William Tarbell, a Danvers-trained potter who established an earthenware shop in Beverly, Massachusetts, circa 1782, a family enterprise that continued into the 1810's. Family history states that this jar was made by Jonathan and Elizabeth Tarbell's son Nathaniel (1781-1821) in Charlestown, and this is corroborated not only by the family tie to the potter's trade, but by Nathaniel's presence in Charlestown, where he married in 1817 and died in 1821. However, since it seems unlikely that Nathaniel would misspell his own mother's name (and we have been unable to establish an alternate spelling of "Elesebeth" for her), perhaps this gift was made by another Tarbell family member or commissioned by Nathaniel Tarbell, instead of made by him. Crafted at the merchant-owned Frederick Carpenter pottery in Charlestown and impressed with the iconic "BOSTON" stamp used there, the jar features a thin-walled potting reminiscent of redware. This work's lavish incising contrasts strikingly with the typical Boston/Charlestown style, and its exquisite floral motif draws inspiration from the Manhattan stoneware tradition, related to such works as the famous Elizabeth Crane punch bowl at the American Folk Art Museum. As a large percentage of America's best incised stoneware objects were recognized and acquired by museums and collectors during the first several decades of the 20th century, few early masterworks of this decorative quality are made available in today's market. Provenance: Descended in the Tarbell/Hawkes family of Massachusetts; Purchased directly from the family by Bill Samaha; Purchased from Bill Samaha in the 1970s. Surviving in excellent, essentially as-made condition, this jar appears as it would have to Elesebeth Tarbell when she received it two-hundred-and-fifteen years ago. Its remarkable state of preservation, despite the delicacy of the potting and handles, suggest this was a cherished family heirloom that was scarcely, if ever, used. H 10".



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