Grotesque Face Jug, ca. 1973 (Corrected)

Value (2016) | $3,000 Retail$5,000 Retail
Watch  

GUEST:
I found it at an estate sale in Eugene, Oregon. It was up in barn. It was covered with dirt and straw. Looked like some chicken droppings were on it. It was very dirty. I had to have it. It speaks to me.

APPRAISER:
When it spoke to you, what was it saying?

GUEST:
It was saying, "I'm very unusual."

APPRAISER:
(laughs)

GUEST:
"I'm very different."

APPRAISER:
There are grotesque face jugs out there. In my experience, to a certain degree, they tend to be predictable, and in fact, some of them are attributable, and some of them are signed, and they even make grotesque face jugs today. When we turn this around, there's a whole variety of, well, characters, and this particular person looks like he had an eye injury. They've stitched his eye closed. They all have very distinctive characters or personalities. This person speaks with a forked tongue, it would seem. There's a little damage here and there. For example, this particular face looks like his tongue was stuck out at us. So we've been spared that. When we look at the base clay, it's red ware, and the potter has used an impressive array of techniques to come up with this extraordinary texture. This, in its own way, is really over the top. It's bizarre and wonderful. You even see a little bit of, like, Pablo Picasso going on here. It's a little difficult to identify precisely when this was made, but I think it's probably late 19th or early 20th century.

GUEST:
Wow.

APPRAISER:
Probably its origin, it's coast of the United States, maybe Middle Atlantic states headed southward. Estimating its value is a little difficult. I think in a retail setting, somebody might well ask in the area of between $30,000 and $50,000 for this.

GUEST:
What?!

APPRAISER:
It's... I think it's just...It's amazing, just an amazing thing.

GUEST:
No!

APPRAISER:
Well, that's my opinion. Did you say what you paid for it?

GUEST:
I thought I over... excuse me. (laughing) Excuse me, I thought I overpaid. I paid $300 for it.

APPRAISER:
Yes, it would appear in our opinion that you didn't overpay. (laughing)

GUEST:
You said $30,000 retail?

APPRAISER:
Or more-- $30,000 to $50,000 or more. I've never seen anything quite like it, ever.

GUEST:
Oh my God.

APPRAISER:
And I've been doing this for 20 years.

GUEST:
I don't know if I can walk out of here.

APPRAISER:
Well, we'll assist you if need be.

GUEST:
Wow.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Skinner, Inc.
Boston, MA
Update (2016)
$3,000 Retail$5,000 Retail
Appraised value (2015)
$30,000 Retail$50,000 Retail
Event
Spokane, WA (June 06, 2015)
Category
Folk Art
Form
Jug
Material
Clay
February 08, 2016: Correction — New information came to light after this appraisal aired on January 11, 2016. A viewer contacted Antiques Roadshow to tell us that she recognized the grotesque face jug as being the work of her friend, Elizabeth "Betsy" Soule, who she said created the piece as an Oregon high school student in the 1970s. Roadshow followed up with Soule, who confirmed the multi-faced vessel was indeed her work, and sent us a photograph of herself surrounded by other pots she had created around that time.

Following the taping last June, appraiser Stephen Fletcher said he had also been reconsidering his initial impressions of the jug. Below, read Fletcher’s reflections upon discovering this new information.

"After a couple of decades of Roadshow seasons, I note that each city presents new opportunities for discoveries and learning experiences. The grotesque glazed redware pot I saw and admired in Spokane is unlike any other example I have seen. We have sold at auction several examples from the 19th century — all of which are from the eastern half of the United States, and have a single grotesque face — some for five figures. This example, with its six grotesque faces, was modeled or sculpted with considerable imagination, virtuosity and technical competence. This mysterious piece was reportedly found at an estate sale, covered with dust, straw, and chicken droppings, and purchased for $300. As far as its age is concerned, I was fooled, as were some of my colleagues. Alas, among the millions of people who watch Antiques Roadshow faithfully was a woman who identified herself as being a friend of the maker, a lady named Betsy Soule! She created this in [1973 or ’74], while in high school! The techniques of making pottery, in many ways, haven’t changed for centuries. Obviously, I was mistaken as to its age by 60 to 80 years. I feel the value at auction, based on its quality and artistic merit, is in the $3,000-$5,000 range. Still not bad for a high schooler in Oregon.”

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