Craven Stoneware Jar, ca. 1840

Value (2004) | $20,000 Auction$40,000 Insurance

GUEST:
This honey pot belongs to my husband. He inherited it from his grandmother. She died in, I believe, 1952, and it came from her grandmother. And it's been in our house for, I guess, about 50 years-- mostly in our house. He had a men's shop, and he used it for umbrellas for a while, but I persuaded him to bring it back home. And as far as I know, it has never been appraised. But I do recall, I believe it was in the late 1950s, he received a letter from a lady who had seen the honey jar in his grandmother's home. And I believe she wrote an article for some antiques publication. And she told him that it really belonged in a museum. He thinks she said in the Smithsonian. I don't really know. But he thinks it's very old, and we think it's lovely.

APPRAISER:
Well, you're right, it is lovely, and I don't think she was overreaching when she said it should be in a museum and perhaps the Smithsonian. Do you have any idea where this pot was made or by whom it was made?

GUEST:
No, we don't, and I asked my husband about that-- if he knew where his great-great-grandmother came from, and he didn't really know. He thought the family lived in middle Tennessee for a while.

APPRAISER:
You have a very, very important honey pot. It was a very large hive of bees that would have had to fill this one, I can tell you. I can barely see you over it. But this very large stoneware pot was made in Tennessee...

GUEST:
In Tennessee?

APPRAISER:
Middle Tennessee. It was made by the Craven family of potters. That was typical in Tennessee-- the early potteries were run by families. The Cravens came here from North Carolina, and by 1820 they were operating a pottery in middle Tennessee. This is unusual for its size. It's in superb condition, and it's very distinctively Craven. I was fortunate to have along with me a copy of the exhibition catalog in Nashville at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in 2003-2004, where a very similar pot marked by Craven was in the exhibition. This particular pot has all the Craven characteristics-- the ovoid shape, the great crimped banding around the middle, which serves another purpose. This jar was so large they had to do it in two sections.

GUEST:
We wondered about that.

APPRAISER:
They joined the two sections together in the middle, covered that connection with a crimped band. The wonderful offset handles at the top are also distinctive and very decorative. And being offset, you could grab the pot from either side. It has wonderful incised-line decoration and banding here and here. As a rare Tennessee example and one of the best that is probably out there, this is a fairly valuable item. It's very hard, when there are not many others like it as comparables, to put an exact value.

GUEST:
Well, when do you think it was made?

APPRAISER:
It was made sometime between 1820 and 1860. So it's pre-Civil War. And given its rarity, we can only take an educated guess. And I would say that at auction I would put a conservative estimate of, say, $20,000 to $30,000.

GUEST:
Oh. Oh, that's wonderful.

APPRAISER:
However, if you were to insure this, I would put at least $40,000 on it.

GUEST:
Oh, wow.

APPRAISER:
So you have a honey of a pot, and thank you for bringing it in.

GUEST:
Oh, yes, thank you very much.

APPRAISER:
I don't know how you reached the honey in the bottom of the jar. You'd need a long-handled spoon.

GUEST:
You would indeed.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Christie's
New York, New York
Appraised value (2004)
$20,000 Auction$40,000 Insurance
Event
Memphis, TN (July 31, 2004)
Period
19th Century
Form
Jar
Material
Stoneware

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