1898 Rookwood "Big Bow, Kiowa" Humidor
I believe it's a piece of Rookwood pottery, and I think it's a humidor. My aunt gave this to me about 30, 35 years ago. She had purchased it in a thrift shop in Queens, New York. She paid about five dollars for it. They are some marks on the bottom, and I believe it's Frederick Sturgis Lawrence who was the decorator of the piece.
Indeed. All of that is true. And how do we know it's a humidor? This is very often the giveaway for humidor, as it is open, has little holes, so you can put a sponge-- a wet sponge-- to keep your tobacco products moist. But the interesting part of this piece is the fact that it has such lovely painting on it. It is a piece of Rookwood standard glaze. The standard glaze was one of their best-known, most-beloved decorating techniques, where an artist would paint a picture, whether a Native American chief-- of which they did not do many, fruits, flowers, and so on-- and cover the entire thing with a glossy, amber color. Sturgis Lawrence was one of their earlier artists. This particular piece is done in 1898. The company dates to 1880. He painted many different things, and he was, while a good painter, not their best painter. He was no Grace Young. But in this particular instance, he hit it out of the park.
This is such a gorgeous rendition of this Native American chief, Big Bow. It's a little bit difficult to paint a portrait on a form like this. It truncates it a little bit. So it's unusual to have a chief on a broad, cylindrical piece like this. This is after the frontier is over. And this is a time when it is believed that everything about the Native Americans is going away. We have taken away their land, we have taken away their religion, we have taken away their languages. So there is a movement to safeguard that culture. And Rookwood Pottery purchased from the Bureau of American Ethnology photographs of Native American chiefs, and they would copy those and put those on the vessels like this. And... or plaques, even. Let's look at what's on the bottom, and the signatures. We have here the flame mark for Rookwood Pottery, and that's how we can assess that it is from 1898. And we have the shape number, which tells us that it is indeed a humidor. We have the title of the piece, and we have the artist's signature, the "S.L." for Sturgis Lawrence. And as a bonus, and that tells us that this piece was probably never used or cleaned, we have the original paper label from the store where your kin purchased it. So we have everything. This is absolutely pristine. Rookwood Pottery, and humidors, and standard glazes, were more popular 20 years ago and 15 years ago than they are today. If you were to put this at auction, it would probably be somewhere between $1,500 and $2,000. Maybe up to $2,500. In the mid-'90s, probably $6,000 to $8,000. There are fewer people who collect Rookwood pottery, there are fewer people who smoke, fewer people who are interested in humidors, but what you have here is still a very, very fine example.
Thank you very much.
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