Art Pottery, Politics and Food
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Connoisseurs of American art pottery are often consumed with hunts for grand rarities of form, glaze and artistic execution.
New enthusiasts often hunt for any example at an affordable price.
Between these extremes, a lucky greenhorn or a jaundiced and equally lucky collector can sometimes, even in our postmillennial age, quite literally stumble across unknown rarities at shockingly affordable prices.
With a top drawer name like Cincinnati, Ohio’s Rookwood Pottery, one could imagine most “finds” previously discovered, but, thanks to the global reach of the internets, the still not completely plumbed depths of Midwestern family collections and, oddly, the accumulated grime of a century, unknown treasures are still almost literally falling into the eager hands of the sharp-eyed.
Starting with the most sublime, this grungy and new to the marketplace 1910 E. T. Hurley 8½ ” tall cylindrical floral vellum estimated between $800 to $1,200 quite reasonably sold for $990 in a November 2006 auction on the banks of the Ohio River.
With many people confusing under glaze and over glaze painting along with egg shell porcelain’s delicacy and pottery’s relative strength, many examples of Rookwood Pottery, known and unknown, are incorrectly imagined too delicate for cleaning and consequently come to the marketplace absolutely filthy.
With the investment of a little elbow grease, some Dawn dish soap, hot water and a soft plastic scrubbie, decades of yellowed cigarette smoke residue and generic grunge dissolved to reveal a far more valuable ceramic than, sadly for the seller, what the auctioneer sold.
Sometimes, as with this lidded, Wine Madder-glazed Dragon Box from 1955, even sharpies at an antique mall allow prime pieces to fly for a song.
The relatively delicate soft paste porcelain Dragon Box, bottom marked "RP", "LV" and "Rookwood Cinti.O.", flew for $150.
Certainly an uncommon lidded box shape, this antlered, three-toed and kanji-bearing (I’d appreciate translations of these kanji if any of you reading this posting know them…I think one may be “happiness”...and if a flaming pearl is in the design) Japanese dragon, is not pictured in any of the Cincinnati Art Galleries’ catalogs from 1980 to the present.
I was able to locate one other 1955 Ming Yellow-glazed example of this Dragon Box (Shape 7079) on page 170 of Anita Ellis’ seminal Rookwood Pottery The Glaze Lines and until this posting there were no images of this lovely 3 3/8” X 1 3/8” box on the web.
This unusual bit of infrequently seen late period (1948) Rookwood production, in the form of a huge coffee cup ( 4½ " cup diameter and, though unmarked, possibly a modified version of J. D. Wareham's Shape #2816) bearing the relief design of three Irish Setters, was found by your humble blogger in an Ebay auction for $70.
The Celadon-glazed vessel (it holds slightly more than 2 cups of liquid) is, also, not pictured in 27 years of CAG catalogues but is, like the Dragon Box, pictured (page 165) in Ellis’ Glaze Lines along with a companion ( 7½ " diameter) saucer not available in the Ebay sale.
Finally, this roughly 3½ ” square Wine Madder-glazed oddity (marked only with the Roman numerals for 1948 and the Rookwood "RP") discovered in an Indiana yard sale for $2.
Pictured nowhere but here, this inexplicable dogwood blossom shape bearing the relief design of a toy, string-pulled gyroscope is listed as Shape #6853 in Peck’s 2nd Book of Rookwood Pottery but without the gyroscope design.
It is, also, not listed among the group of Rookwood’s specially requested and shape number-less commercial orders presented in Peck’s second book.
Unbelievably, persistent and knowledgeable collectors can still, as this post shows, make valuable discoveries, large and small, in a collecting category as heavily explored and sought-after as Rookwood Pottery.
Happy hunting, pot heads!
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Tonight on Cable Channel 487
The rope looms for our cranky, law-breaking closet cases in the final installments of what seems like TV's longest running miniseries.
Modified Image: AP, Google, NomadLife.com, Reuters