Exceedingly Rare and Important Thomas W. Commeraw 18th Century Stoneware Jar, COERLEARS HOOK / N. YORK


Summer 2023 Stoneware Auction

Lot #: 2

Price Realized: $120,000.00

($100,000 hammer, plus 20% buyer's premium)

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Summer 2023 Auction Catalog

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Exceedingly Rare and Important Two-Gallon Stoneware Jar with Incised Floral Decoration, Stamped "COERLEARS HOOK" and "N. YORK," Thomas Commeraw, Corlears Hook, Manhattan, NY, circa 1797, ovoid jar with footed base, tooled shoulder, flaring rim, and open loop handles, decorated on the front and reverse with a large incised and cobalt-highlighted design of a flower bud emanating from splayed leaves. Impressed on the front and reverse sides of the rim with the cobalt-highlighted stamps, "COERLEARS HOOK" and "N. YORK." Brushed cobalt highlights to handle terminals. This jar is one of roughly ten documented examples of Commeraw's work bearing freehand incised decoration. Its maker's mark indicates it was made during the potter's first years operating his own shop in Manhattan's Corlears Hook and predates pieces bearing the potter's well-known impressed swag-and-tassel motifs. Notably, this small group of stoneware is the only subset of Commeraw's work that can be confidently said to have been made by the potter himself, start to finish. Each of these works displays a uniformity of design and potting not seen on Commeraw's later works, which were made in a multi-handed workshop. Furthermore, this is the only example of Commeraw's work bearing a classic design employed by the Crolius family, the family that had enslaved him as a small child, but also freed him and trained him to become one of America's most well-known stoneware manufacturers. Variants of this design are oft-repeated into the first decade of the 19th century on Clarkson Crolius, Sr. and some John Remmey III pieces, but date all the way back to the 1770's. (See, for example, a dated 1775 jug by John Crolius, Sr., in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.) The jar's striking color, exhibited in both the glazed clay and applied cobalt slip, is the finest seen on Manhattan stoneware and was not easily achieved, speaking to Commeraw's clear skill in firing salt-glazed stoneware. Both its importance and beauty are underscored by its illustration on the cover of Brandt Zipp's highly praised book on the potter's life, Commeraw's Stoneware: The Life and Work of the First African-American Pottery Owner, published in September 2022. It is difficult to overstate the importance of this work at a time when Commeraw and other African-American potters are receiving widespread national attention. Literature: Illustrated in Zipp, Commeraw's Stoneware: The Life and Work of the First African-American Pottery Owner, cover and p. 65. Provenance: Crocker Farm, Inc., July 21, 2012, lot 1; previously discovered in South Carolina. The finest conditioned early period COERLEARS HOOK vessel we have ever seen offered for sale. Cracks in underside, forming tighter cracks and hairlines, which extend partway up side of jar below one handle. Two small base chips and a few rim chips. In-the-firing chip (contact mark) to one side. H 11 5/8".

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