Exceptional S. BELL & SON / STRASBURG, VA Redware Spaniel Figure

Spring 2022 Stoneware Auction

Lot #: 245

Price Realized: $28,800.00

($24,000 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.

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Spring 2022 Auction Catalog

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Exceptional Copper-Glazed Redware Figure of a Spaniel with Impressed and Incised Decoration, Stamped "S. BELL & SON. / STRASBURG," VA origin, circa 1882-1895, press-molded figure of a Staffordshire-style spaniel with elaborate punched decoration to ears, tail, and base, the face with impressed elliptical eyes surrounded by elaborate incised dashes. Neck and body with impressed circles forming a collar and chain, the chest with impressed elliptical device forming a stylized locket. Top of head with impressed horizontal band of circles as well as a single stamped circle to forehead. Incised details to feet. Surface with light, cream-colored slip coating and heavily-applied copper slip decoration under a clear lead glaze. The distinctive stamping on this work relate it to a very few other spaniel figures bearing the incised signature, "R.F. Bell," for Richard Franklin "Polk" Bell (1845-1908), son of Samuel Bell. Alvin H. Rice and John Baer Stoudt's 1929 book, The Shenandoah Pottery, states that "Polk Bell volunteered for service in the Confederate army and lost the middle finger on the left hand in the engagement at Brandy Station. The loss of this finger is evident in some of the earthen-ware which he turned, especially in crocks. He made many of the special pieces, particularly dogs and roosters (Rice and Stoudt, p. 57)." Bell's injury during the Civil War apparently limited his ability to turn pottery on the wheel. However, it allowed him to pursue the medium from a different angle: sculpture. A small number of molded and hand-modeled figural pieces signed by Bell, attributed to him, or stamped with his family's mark, "S. BELL & SON. / STRASBURG," rank among the more distinctive and expressive examples of American folk pottery known. Festooned with stamping, punching, and incising, such works are boldly and laboriously decorated- appreciated perhaps more for the handiwork involved in their creation than the actual forms they represent. These include a few surviving molded spaniels, a jar with rooster finial, and a large hand-modeled dog with monkey rider. While the Bell families in Waynesboro, PA and Strasburg, VA produced spaniel figures for roughly half-a-century, only a small number of examples have survived. In our research, we can find only one other surviving spaniel bearing an "S. BELL & SON." stamp, one which was produced without any glaze. This work, combining a bold, green glaze, prolific surface details, the pottery's signature, and strong condition, is perhaps the finest surviving spaniel by any member of this dynastic American potting family. Literature: Illustrated in Comstock, The Pottery of the Shenandoah Valley Region, p. 251, fig. 5.160. Provenance: Purchased by the consignor from the Stradlings, New York, NY in 1983. A small, shallow chip to muzzle, some glaze wear to reverse, and other minor surface wear. H 9 1/2".

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