Exceedingly Rare and Important Pitcher by Isaac Thomas and Joseph Mendell, Maysville, KY

Spring 2022 Stoneware Auction

Lot #: 36

Price Realized: $33,600.00

($28,000 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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Exceedingly Rare and Important Two-Gallon Cobalt-Decorated Stoneware Pitcher, Inscribed "I Thom / Manufacturer / of Stone Ware" and "Mendell / Finisher / 1835," Isaac Thomas and Joseph Mendell, Maysville, KY, 1835, ovoid pitcher with short, flaring collar, accented with tooled lines, the front featuring the slip-trailed inscription, "I Thom / Manufacturer / of Stone Ware," below a two-gallon capacity mark flanked by foliate devices. Reverse with slip-trailed inscription, "Mendell / Finisher / 1835." Cobalt highlights to spout, capacity mark, and handle terminals. This recently-surfaced pitcher was created through the combined efforts of two of Maysville's most important potters, Isaac Thomas and Joseph Claghorn Mendell. Though much is known of Thomas' work, as many marked examples survive today, little is known of the output of Mendell, who partnered with Thomas for a period. The latter was involved, by marriage, with two potting families, having married Mary Ann Ricketts of the Ricketts family of potters in 1820, and, following her death, marrying Isaac Thomas' daughter, Lydia Thomas, in 1827. He was active in the Maysville potting industry for several decades of the 19th century, although no pieces bearing his individual potter's mark are known to exist. Period research indicates Mendell was a partner of Thomas circa 1840, and a few undecorated examples of stoneware bearing the stamp, "THOMAS & MENDELL," have survived. This pitcher evidently predates this partnership, and indicates through its inscriptions that Mendell was an employee of Thomas at the time it was made, in the year 1835. This pitcher appears to be an advertising piece of sorts, promoting Thomas on the front as a "Manufacturer of Stoneware." Mendell's involvement with the operation is made less conspicuous, with his inscribed name, date, and the unusual term, "Finisher," appearing on the object's reverse. This moniker likely indicates Mendell was the pitcher's decorator. While common in other areas, the abundant use of cobalt slip on this work is noteworthy. Cobalt-decorated stoneware from Maysville is considered scarce and only a few examples from this potting school with cobalt-slip inscriptions are known. Among these are a pitcher signed "Evan G. Ricketts / July 4th 1833," an Isaac Thomas churn, inscribed "I. Thomas / Manufacturer / Kentucky / 1836" in the MESDA collection, and a second Isaac Thomas churn, inscribed "Kentucky / 1837." Interestingly, the penmanship on the two Thomas churns matches that of the Thomas pitcher in the auction, strongly suggesting that Mendell decorated all three for Thomas. Predating the two churns by one and two years, the pitcher is the earliest example of stoneware bearing Isaac Thomas's name. Combining artistic and historic appeal as well as rare insight into the relationship between potters and their cooperation in producing a "finished" product, this pitcher is regarded as one of the most important examples of Kentucky pottery known. Provenance: Recently surfaced in the Northeastern U.S. Excellent condition. A 4 1/2" in-the-firing diagonal line from side of spout. A 2" diagonal hairline from rim to left of spout. A 1 1/2" surface line to interior of rim, not visible on exterior. A few typical, minor in-the-firing base chips. H 11 1/2".

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