Important "Lm Jan 27 1859 Dave" Stoneware Churn by Enslaved Edgefield, SC Potter, Dave

March 14, 2015 Stoneware Auction

Lot #: 445

Price Realized: $8,050.00
($7,000 hammer, plus 15% buyer's premium).

March 14, 2015 Auction Catalog

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Exceedingly Rare and Important Three-Gallon Alkaline-Glazed Stoneware Churn, Incised "Lm Jan 27 1859 / Dave," Dave the Slave, Lewis Mile's Stoney Bluff Manufactory, Edgefield, SC, 1859, narrow, cylindrical form with rounded shoulder, squared rim, and large applied tab handles, the shoulder incised with the large inscription "Lm Jan 27 1859" underscored by the signature "Dave". Reverse with two incised slash marks on shoulder. Surface covered in a colorful, flowing alkaline glaze with olive-green coloration. This significant recent discovery is one of a very few known churns featuring the inscribed signature of enslaved African-American potter, Dave. Dave (ca. 1800-1875) bears the distinction of being one of America's most celebrated and studied African-American artisans. He was born into slavery about the year 1800, and it is believed he learned how to pot, as well as read and write, from an early master, Harvey Drake. Dave would be owned by several families and operate at different shops throughout his long life as a potter. He is most well-known for the incised writing on his pots, often in the form of poetic couplets. The ability to read and write was discouraged among slaves of the American South, and Dave’s words, carved boldly into the wares he produced, are considered a wonderful insight into the life and views of one enslaved man, as well as an assertion of his abilities as an artist. According to Goldberg and Witkowski’s groundbreaking article in Ceramics in America 2006, entitled Beneath his Magic Touch: The Dated Vessels of the African-American Slave Potter Dave, the potter generally dated a single piece each day. According to the authors' list of dated Dave pieces, this churn was made the same day as another dated jar, a highly unusual occurrence among his known body of work. Attesting to the rarity of this form, among the 169 signed and dated Dave pieces in Goldberg and Witkowski's article, no churn forms are mentioned. This auction offers an almost unique opportunity to acquire one of Dave's most elusive utilitarian forms. Provenance: A fresh-to-the-market example from a Southeastern Virginia collection, this churn was purchased by the consignor's mother several decades ago and has remained in the family's possession since that time. Professional restoration to entire rim. A hairline to far right side of jar's front, extending approximately 4" or 5" from rim. A second, very faint line from rim on front. Y-shaped line on underside, which forms a T at base, not apparently visible on interior. A 1 3/8" chip to underside of left handle. Minor base chips. H 16 1/4".


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(Our next auction takes place March 24, 2018.)

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