Exceedingly Rare and Important Pennsylvania Redware Preacher and Bear Figure

Spring 2022 Stoneware Auction

Lot #: 2

Price Realized: $22,800.00

($19,000 hammer, plus 20% buyer's premium)

PLEASE NOTE:  This result is 2 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 2022 Auction | Pennsylvania Redware

Spring 2022 Auction Catalog

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Exceedingly Rare and Important Glazed Redware Preacher and Bear Figural Group, attributed to the John H. Parker Pottery, Greenwood Township, Columbia County, PA, circa 1853-1876, large-sized, hand-modeled figures of an African-American preacher and bear, both standing atop an oval base, grasping a hollowed tree stump. Preacher figure features impressed eyes, incised facial features and hair, and open mouth with protruding tongue. Circular stamps embellish his preacher's hat and coat. Bear features impressed eyes, incised facial features and paws, and heavily-incised fur throughout. Stump with heavily-incised bark and scored rim. Base embellished with incised and impressed floral motifs between the legs of the figures, impressed daisies around the base of the stump, and quatrefoil floral motifs around the edge. Preacher figure covered in light-colored slip and decorated with manganese highlights. Bear and half of base dipped in a black, "gun metal" manganese slip. Entire surface dipped in a clear lead glaze. The dynamic glaze treatment on this work creates a variety of colors to the surface: yellow to the preacher's jacket and pants, brown to his hat and face, mottled orange and brown to half of the base and stump, and semi-gloss black to the bear and the remaining half of the base and stump. Both figures include small pieces of loose clay placed into their hollow interiors prior to firing, causing them to rattle when shaken. A number of American redware animal figures, and a few human figures, produced during the second half of the 19th century in Pennsylvania south to Virginia, have survived. The similarities of pieces between different potteries and regions have led to a popular theory of a traveling "hobo" potter being responsible for the majority of the figures. Another idea suggests that a number of itinerant potters traveled from site to site and carried their ideas with them. Within the large body of stamped-based redware figural pieces, this work's depiction of two figures within the same sculpture is highly unusual. In addition, the size of this creation is noticeably larger than the majority of stamped-base redware figurals known. Its imagery may have been inspired by an American folk song called The Preacher and the Bear, which, although published in 1904 (long after this piece was made), may have its roots earlier in the 19th century. Combining rare subject matter, size, condition, and a sophisticated glaze scheme, this work ranks among the finest American redware figural pieces known- perhaps only outdone by the Bell family's iconic lions and Anthony Bacher's goat. Exhibited: William Penn Memorial Museum, Harrisburg, PA, 1979. Literature: Illustrated and discussed in Lasansky, Central Pennsylvania Redware Pottery, 1780-1904, p. 23. Provenance: Purchased from the Stradlings, New York, NY in 1981. Very nice condition, considering the size and delicacy of the object, which includes the following professional restoration, executed in 2003 by John Kovasckitz of Ceramic Conservation and Restoration in Kennett Square, PA: a restored 1" x 1/2" chip to base at right foot of figure, a restored 7/8" x 3/16" chip to rear of hat's brim, restoration to small chips to tips of bear's ears, and approximately six small restored flakes to bear. Some shallow, unrestored chipping to underside. For a black-and-white photo of one side prior to restoration, see Lasanksy, p. 23. H 8" ; L 8 1/2".

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