Appraisal Video: (3:30)
Pottery & Porcelain
Rago Arts & Auction Center
GUEST: A friend of mine needed a place to stay. He came for a couple of days and stayed two months, and when he left, he said, "I'll give this to you as a payback." That was 20 years ago.
APPRAISER: Well, the first thing to do with this piece, for me, was to establish who made it because it's different. I had an idea what it was when I saw it because a couple times in the distant past I saw pieces similar to this, and it had elements of the Grueby pottery of Boston, Massachusetts. The Grueby's known for their rich, organic, matte glazes. This is a high-glaze piece and the tooling on this is much more obvious. Grueby tends to be a far more subtle pottery, but upon closer inspection, there are things that suggested to me that it was, in fact, Grueby. First of all, earlier on, when they were Grueby and Atwood, they weren't doing matte glazes much. They were doing a lot of high glaze, and this is the green high glaze that they used. So it wasn't what they were famous for, but it's where they started. Number two, these ribs that we see going through the body, these throwing ridges-- it's a hand-thrown pot, which is typical of Grueby, and earlier on they left these throwing ridges somewhat prominently on the surface of the piece. Number three, if we look inside, that white clay and that kind of crackled effect it has-- that's typical of Grueby from the early period, and also later on till about the turn of the century. The thing that really clinched it for me was the bottom, which is not marked, but this rough, crude look is typical of early Grueby. What you often see on Grueby pieces is like a shellac surface. It's applied after the fire, and you have this orangey, shellac-y bottom on the piece, which, as far as I'm concerned, is as good as a mark on any piece of Grueby. The second thing to establish is its importance. 'Cause it's not what people look for when they look for Grueby. Grueby was the ultimate Arts and Crafts potter in America. They were influenced by what was happening in France and England, but they modified it into the New England school of Arts and Crafts. And this is the missing link, because this is the link between the early crude derivative, neoclassical style of Grueby's first work with Atwood, to what became high-style Arts and Crafts. So you see the things that Grueby's known for, such as these tooled leaves around the outside. These are kind of coarse and thick and crude, and I think it's absolutely fascinating to see the evolution of Grueby's style. I have never seen a piece of Grueby from this period, in green high glaze, showing these elements, just when they were leaving that neoclassical work into Arts and Crafts work. So this, to me, is a historically significant piece. It's not the prettiest piece of Grueby, but I think someone who's an advanced Grueby collector, or a museum would be as captivated by it as I am.
APPRAISER: This has had water in it at one point. What's happening on the bottom here-- this is from water inside, leaching through the outside, and whatever elements-- like whether it was dirt, or things from flowers and leaves inside-- that will clean off. By and large, I'd say this is in excellent condition. If I had to come up with a price on this for an auction estimate, I would probably say somewhere between $10,000 and $15,000. But if I put this at auction and somebody paid 20,000 or 30,000 for it, I wouldn't be surprised. Because someone who is a major Grueby collector or Arts and Crafts collector would have to have this to complete that cycle of the evolution of American design, would pay whatever they had to to acquire this piece.
GUEST: Oh, my God. I'm stunned.
APPRAISER: Not as stunned as I was when it walked in-- that I got to tell you.
GUEST: Help me out of my chair. That's amazing. This is beyond my wildest expectation.