Exceptional J. & E. NORTON / BENNINGTON, VT Stoneware Crock w/ Stag and Doe Scene

Summer 2021 Stoneware Auction

Lot #: 3

Estimate: $20,000-$30,000.  A Note About Estimates

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Summer 2021 Auction Catalog

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Sold!  $40,000. 
(With 20% buyer's premium: $48,000.)


Exceptional Five-Gallon Stoneware Crock with Cobalt Stag and Doe Decoration, Stamped "J. & E. NORTON / BENNINGTON, VT," circa 1855, large-sized, cylindrical crock with tooled shoulder, semi-rounded rim, and applied lug handles, the front decorated with an elaborate slip-trailed scene of a standing stag with turned head and a recumbent doe atop a hill between two split-rail fences. Two pine trees appear in the distance and dashed and spotted ground cover appears below. Cobalt highlights to maker's mark and capacity mark. In this work, each deer is executed in the classic Norton style with heavy spots and swag-like details throughout, a design likely by the itinerant decorator, John Hilfinger (1826-1888). Hilfinger, a native of Wurttemberg, Germany, was active at several Northeastern stoneware manufactories during the third quarter of the 19th century, most notably during the 1850s at the J. & E. Norton pottery of Bennington, VT. During this period, Hilfinger was responsible for producing some of the greatest decorations known in 19th century American stoneware- entire scenes brimming with various animals, birds, and houses. This crock's decoration typifies Hilfinger's style of placing a large figure, or figures, within a pastoral setting with backgrounds and foregrounds, creating a three-dimensionality rarely seen in American stoneware design. His designs, as seen here, are stylized, yet highly artistic, applied rigorously with the confident hand of a seasoned decorator. In this work, the artist has taken time to depict the pottery's most iconic design--the deer--twice. A sense of vitality is given to the scene as both animals face in the same direction, the doe with a head-on stare, the buck with a turned head, both perhaps startled by something heard in the distance. The design on this crock ranks among the finest that we have ever offered from the Norton family, the leading producer of stoneware in 19th century New England. A tight Y-shaped crack at base on right side of crock, extending onto underside. A large, tight spider crack on bottom half of crock's reverse side, including a small chip to interior of crock. A faint horizontal line below doe on front and some very faint lines to right of stag. A 1 3/8" rim chip on reverse. A small chip to interior of rim. Two small chips to left handle. A small chip and 3/8" line to right handle. Some fry to base of decoration. Minor chipping to base. H 12 1/2".



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