Exceedingly Important Stoneware Jug w/ Elaborate Incised Ship Decoration, probably Crolius Family, New York City, 18th century

Fall 2021 Stoneware Auction

Lot #: 2

Estimate: $50,000-$80,000.  A Note About Estimates

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Fall 2021 Auction Catalog

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Sold!  $200,000. 


Exceedingly Rare and Important Two-Gallon Stoneware Jug with Profuse Incised Decoration of a Sailing Ship with American Flag, Manhattan, NY origin, probably Crolius Family, 1791-1792, ovoid jug with heavily-tooled spout, decorated with a large incised and cobalt-highlighted design of a sailing ship. The design includes twenty sails and a large American flag flying at the stern emblazoned with fourteen impressed circles representing stars. Dozens of these impressed circles appear throughout the decoration, embellishing the sails, rigging, bowsprit, starboard side, and stern of the ship. Deeply-incised, curved lines add further detail to the sails. The hull of the ship features elaborate cross-hatched incising and sawtoothed waves appear below. This recently-surfaced masterwork from the Manhattan potting tradition features possibly the finest rendering of a sailing ship seen in American stoneware. Among the most prized early motifs in the genre, the incised design of a sailing ship can be found on occasion, depicted in a smaller, more stylized fashion. The size and detail of this drawing takes the design to a remarkably high level of artistic value, rarely found in this tradition. From the end of its pennant to the tip of the bowsprit, the design measuring an astounding 17" long by 9" tall along the curvature of the jug. Possibly copied from a print or painting, the ship follows the anatomy of a ship succinctly, including jib sails along the bowsprit, fore, main, and mizzen masts, each with several sails, triangular staysails in between, and ratlines and a spanker sail at the stern. A long, flowing commissioning pennant atop the mizzenmast identifies the ship as a naval vessel. Among the most important aspects of the design is its depiction of an American flag. Based on its fourteen stars, the flag (and therefore the jug) can be dated circa 1791-1792, after the admission of Vermont into the Union, making the design one of the earliest depictions of an American flag on an American-made ceramic object. The entire decoration could easily be ranked among the great incised decorations in all of American stoneware. The form, color, and spout and handle constructions of the jug indicate a clear Manhattan origin. The quality of its design points to a member of the Crolius family, perhaps the most prolific and skilled incision decorators of 18th century America, as its maker. Based on the time period, Clarkson Crolius, Sr., or his father, John Crolius, Sr., are possibly responsible. The jug's entire craftsmanship and subject matter (from potting to decorating to firing) serve as a "document in clay"--evidence of the burgeoning reliance on quality, domestically-produced goods in a young America, then only fifteen or sixteen years old. Even the subject matter appears to tout American-made goods. Coupling high artistic appeal with exceptionally early American history, this work is regarded as one of the most important examples of 18th century pottery produced in this country. Provenance: A fresh-to-the-market example, which recently surfaced in the Southern United States. Excellent condition with a thin horizontal crack through handle, minor base chipping, glazed-over base chipping, and some typical in-the-firing iron pings to surface. H 14".



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