New Orleans Art Pottery Jardinière, ca. 1886

Value (2010) | $10,000 Auction$15,000 Auction
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GUEST:
It was my grandmother's, and about ten years ago my mother gave it to me. All I know is my grandmother came from Italy on the boat and landed in the United States sometime in the 1800s. And my mother was born in 1917, so I don't know whether it came from Italy, or if she purchased it after she was in New Orleans and got married.

APPRAISER:
This piece falls into the category of... I think I know what you've got, I'm pretty sure I know what this is, I'm not 100% certain. We'll have to get back to you on the final answer with this.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
But I think what this is is a piece of New Orleans Art Pottery. Now, New Orleans Art Pottery was a very short-lived operation. Its roots were in 1885. Sometime around '88, '89, they were already out of business. And teacher Ellsworth Woodward went to New Orleans to teach the ladies how to do decorative arts, and started the Ladies Decorative Arts League in 1885. In '86 on Baronne Street opened up a pottery, and brought in two potters-- Joseph Meyer and the famous George Ohr. George Ohr actually left his own pottery here in Biloxi to go to New Orleans to throw pots for a couple years with Woodward and with Meyer on Baronne Street. So I think this is one of those pieces. Now, how do we know this without a mark on it? This work is so obscure, there may be 20 pieces known of the New Orleans Art Pottery. Utilitarian forms such as jardinières predominated, and they were used and they were broken. So what do we look for? Several things. Number one, this cross-hatching on both sides is typical of work I've seen on New Orleans Art Pottery. It's somewhat of a fingerprint. I think more importantly, this piece has a sophisticated crudeness. You look at the way the handles are formed on the top, the lumpiness of the decoration. On the other hand, it's really well done. It's an oxymoron, because it's got elements of high art and heavy-handedness at the same time. The other thing I look for, and I'm going to bring this up here, if we look inside at the clay. That is the clay I've seen on pieces made from the New Orleans Art Pottery. It looks like mud from the New Orleans streets. In addition to that, there are very fine lines going around this pot, as though someone used a sponge or a finishing tool while it was still on the wheel to even out the inside. Several of the pieces I've seen of New Orleans Art Pottery had these concentric circles going through the inside of the pot. So again, there are many elements of this. They made predominantly jardinières, not that many vases. I doubt very much that your grandmother brought a jardinière over from Italy with her on the boat. I mean, it's much more likely she would have found it here, arriving in New Orleans, which is where this pot would have been made.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
So I think the odds are about ten to one that this is a piece of New Orleans Art Pottery. There is some minor damage on the piece. On the edge of the artichokes and on some of the leaf points you can see some white clay showing through. But the truth of the matter is again, utilitarian piece, it got used. This is in amazing condition considering what it must have been through for 130 years. If this was just another Victorian cast pot in a majolica style, which this glaze is, it's worth $100, okay? Because it's a hand-thrown one rather than cast, I'm thinking perhaps at auction a piece like this would bring somewhere between $400 and $600.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
If it's a piece of New Orleans Art Pottery-- and we're pretty sure about that-- at auction the value is somewhere between $10,000 and $15,000. If we find a picture of this piece in our research, I think we have a piece of New Orleans Art Pottery worth between $20,000 and $30,000.

GUEST:
Oh, my word.

APPRAISER:
It just gets better. So I think you're looking at a piece probably that's going to be worth, estimated, at auction, somewhere between $10,000 and $15,000. But we're going to get back to you, okay?

GUEST:
Okay. All right. Wow. Where should I keep it?

APPRAISER:
Not on the floor, where you had it sitting a little earlier. I'd definitely keep it off the floor.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
And I wouldn't use it, even though it's meant to have flowers put in it. I'd definitely keep it protected.

GUEST (tearfully): Thank you.

APPRAISER:
You're welcome, my pleasure.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Rago Arts & Auction Center
Lambertville, NJ
Appraised value (2010)
$10,000 Auction$15,000 Auction
Event
Biloxi, MS (July 24, 2010)
Period
19th Century
Form
Vessel
Material
Pottery

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