Outstanding JUMBO Stoneware Crock w/ Stenciled Elephant Decoration, SOMERSET POTTERS WORKS, Massachusetts

Summer 2023 Stoneware Auction

Lot #: 5

Price Realized: $28,800.00

($24,000 hammer, plus 20% buyer's premium)

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Summer 2023 Auction Catalog

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Outstanding Four-Gallon Cobalt-Decorated Stoneware Crock with Stenciled Elephant Motifs, Inscribed "JUMBO," Stamped "SOMERSET / POTTERS WORKS," Somerset, MA, circa 1882, cylindrical crock with semi-rounded rim and applied lug handles, decorated with a stenciled design of a large elephant followed by a small elephant with upturned trunk, both surrounded by heavy cobalt brushwork. Inscribed below in large stenciled letters, "JUMBO." Cobalt highlights to maker's mark and capacity mark. This wonderfully-decorated crock commemorates P.T. Barnum's famous circus elephant, Jumbo (1860-1885), who Barnum purchased from the London Zoo for $10,000 and first exhibited in America in 1882. Jumbo, billed as the largest elephant in the world, was so popular that he earned Barnum his money back in three weeks. The term, "jumbo," is used to this day to describe things of an exceptionally large size. The smaller elephant presumably depicts Tom Thumb, a young elephant that Jumbo worked with. Jumbo tragically died after being hit by a train in St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada in 1885. According to Barnum, Jumbo was in the process of leading Tom Thumb away from the railroad tracks to avoid the oncoming train when both elephants were struck and mortally wounded. Newspaper accounts, however, stated that Tom Thumb only suffered a broken leg. Elephants are among the rarest animals represented with any regularity in the American stoneware medium. This example combines the high visual appeal of this motif, executed in strong color, with the historical significance relating it to one of America's most famous, larger-than-life circus performers. The few surviving pieces bearing this iconic stenciled design are regarded as the finest creations known from the Chace family's Somerset Potters Works. A 1 1/4" chip to front of rim, a small rim chip on reverse, and a few rim nicks. Several small chips to interior of rim. A small in-the-firing ping to elephant's ear. H 11 1/2".

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