French "Uncle Tom's Cabin" Vases, ca. 1860
Appraised Value: $10,000
IMAGE: 1 of 3
Appraisal Video: (2:55)
Decorative Arts, Glass, Pottery & Porcelain, Silver
Vice President of Special Collections
GUEST: As long as I can remember, they belonged to my grandmother. My grandmother lived in Arkansas. From what I know, they're old Paris porcelain made in the mid 1850s. The figures depict scenes from Uncle Tom's Cabin. That's Uncle Tom and Little Eva. And this is Eliza as she escapes on the ice. That's about all I know.
APPRAISER: Have you ever seen another pair of them or have you...
GUEST: Well, online we did some research and at the Harriet Beecher Stowe Museum I think that there's a pair that are like these.
APPRAISER: Have you ever been up there in Connecticut?
GUEST: No, I have not.
APPRAISER: She lived next door to another very famous author, did you know that?
APPRAISER: Mark Twain.
GUEST: Wow, okay.
APPRAISER: So if you go and visit her house, you can sort of walk a couple of hundred yards and there's the Mark Twain house.
GUEST: Wow, okay.
APPRAISER: Uncle Tom's Cabin, which was published in 1852, was arguably one of the most important American novels, certainly of the 19th century. And they do, as you say, represent the protagonists. Here's Uncle Tom and Little Eva, and there's Eliza running across the frozen Ohio River in a very dramatic pose. I happen to think that this one is more dramatic than this, which is a more common depiction from the novel.
APPRAISER: But together and combined, they're extraordinary. I believe there is another pair in the Harriet Beecher Stowe Museum. I'd love to know if they are identical. And I spoke with some of my colleagues if they had ever seen them before. And one of my colleagues, at least, had seen an identical pair coming up at auction some years ago. But not in this condition. They are in extraordinary condition. You used the term "old Paris." It's a term that we really don't use that much anymore. It's kind of an old-fashioned antiques dealer's term. I suspect they were made in Limoges rather than in Paris. French porcelain of this type is almost never marked, so it can be difficult to identify precisely which factory, or even which town, it was made in. They are made of porcelain and the sculptural part of it has been left unglazed in what we call a bisque finish. Whereas the balance, the upper part of the vase, has been glazed and gilded and colored. And this creates an interesting contrast. The facial features of Uncle Tom are uniquely French. They're modeled in the French orientalist tradition to make him look more like a North African. And Eliza, she looks like some great French academic sculpture. But they're certainly French, and the dating, as you put it, would be about right. I would think in the late 1850s, probably just before the war. My feeling is that to insure them properly, you should put a value on the pair of at least $10,000.
GUEST: Wow, great. That is great.
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