Samarran Pottery Bowl

Samarran Pottery Bowl

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1. Shared Beginnings

Our human story begins in Africa. It was from there that our distant ancestors travelled into Asia and Europe, bringing with them the same common technology – the handaxe. Their makers arrived in India perhaps as early as 1.7 million years ago. The same tools were made for tens of thousands of years wherever these distant ancestors travelled.

Much later, around 200,000 years ago, modern humans like ourselves evolved in Africa and spread in a second great wave of migration approximately 70–80,000 years ago. Our recent ancestors lived a nomadic life until the end of the Ice Age 10,000 years ago when new ways of living began to emerge. Some people began tending crops and animals, and gradually became farmers. Simultaneously in different parts of the world, our ancestors started to make and use pottery. The same idea was used in different, changing ways to express our shared humanity.


Developed at least 30,000 years ago, pottery—fired clay—was wonderfully useful for collecting grain, fruits, and water. Archaeologists treasure durable pottery for distinctive conventional patterns and techniques that identify prehistoric cultures. Pottery may be useful, but it is invariably enhanced by artistic design. The images below sample characteristic pottery from an array of ancient cultures. You’ll notice some shared conventions, especially animals and geometric design.

Horned Animals and Dancers . (Chaleolithic period, c. 5,000 BCE). Ubaid culture, Samarran ceramics. Jar with Four Ibexes. (Neolithic Pakistan c. 2800-2500 BCE). Jar from “the earliest era of Indian civilization, …the Indus Valley Period,”

Background information provided by the Artstor site for the Samarran bowl explains key conventions, The most distinctive shapes of Samarran ceramics are deep or shallow bowls, plates, pedestalled bowls and high neck jars. Samarran ceramics are the first in human culture where animal designs were extensively used, and the first to be decorated with human figures. … Swastikas, a common religious symbol in ancient South Asian cultures, appear on the outsides … and whirling, spinning, swirling swastika-like designs are found on the insides. These include gazelles with their horns extended out behind them, females (with three fingers on their hands), with their long hair flying out at right angles to their heads as they spin around, surrounded by designs of scorpions. Similar arrangements of fish, snakes and other life forms are found. The figures are often grouped in fours, with horns or hair at right angles to the main figure in strictly geometrical but swirling pattern.

The venerable Chinese pottery tradition has flourished in China for over 6,000 years. This Hu culture pot exhibits whorls and geometrical patterns that parallel many ancient aesthetics.

Pot with swirl pattern . (Hu culture, 4000-2000 BCE) Porcelain Tang dynasty jar . (618–907 CE):

Comparing the Hu and Tang culture pieces, can you see the remarkable difference created by a new technology? About 14 centuries ago, Chinese potters made a remarkable technological breakthrough: Porcelain , illustrated in the Tang Dynasty jar above.

A hard, white, translucent ceramic body, which is fired to a high temperature in a kiln to vitrify it. It is normally covered with a glaze and decorated, under the glaze (usually in cobalt), or, after the first firing, over the glaze with enamel colors. … True porcelain was first made by the Chinese in the 7th or 8th century ad, using kaolin (china clay) and petuntse (china stone) (Porcelain).

That sophisticated, high gloss finish characteristic of porcelain lies in the Glaze :

A glassy coating on a ceramic body which provides a waterproof covering and a surface for decoration. The ingredients used are similar to those in glass, with a flux added and then ground to produce an insoluble powder. This can then be sprayed or dusted on to a ceramic body. Alternatively, the powder can be mixed with water and the body dipped into this solution. The water is absorbed by the porous body, leaving a coating of glaze, ready to be fired. The glaze is fused to the body after a glost firing, which follows an initial biscuit firing. Earthenware was commonly covered with lead glaze or tin glaze, stoneware with salt glaze, and hard-paste porcelain with feldspathic glaze. Decoration can also be glaze. Decoration can also be applied under the glaze, usually using cobalt, or over the glaze using a wide range of enamel colors. (“Glaze” article)

During the Ming Dynasty (16th Century) Chinese porcelain reached a high degree of sophistication using underglazing, “decoration painted on to a ceramic body before the glaze is applied and which is permanently fixed under the glaze when the piece is fired” (“Underglaze”).

In the 17th Century, European mercantile and colonizing efforts dominated trade around the world. A particularly prized import for affluent Europeans was Chinese porcelain, and manufacturers in China tooled up for the export trade (Cinese export porcelain):

Ming Dynasty Vase . (1522-66 CE). Porcelain with blue underglaze Porcelain dish Worcester Porcelain Co . England (1765-1780)

Of course, import costs raised prices and “there were many attempts to reproduce [porcelain] in Europe” (“Porcelain” article). Chinese techniques proved elusive to European artisans until, in the 18th Century, manufacturers broke through and emulated Chinese designs in bulk production. “China” became a staple of European domestic design and people’s dining rooms.

Brush Pottery Antique Marks

Many Brush items are marked with the company name, but not all. Some feature just a mold number and the letters USA. Some are marked with a paper label which has subsequently worn away or has become illegible, others were simply sold unmarked.

While some early pieces are unmarked, many are marked with a style number. Since they do not have a company name, these three-digit numbers can be difficult to identify. Brush-McCoy rarely included the name of the pattern, with some notable exceptions the 1912 Navarre pattern and the 1916 Vogue pattern were both named on the base. Other items have a stamp including the initials "MITUSA" (short for Made in the USA) alongside the pottery location, Zanesville, Ohio.

Designs by the Winton brothers were marked with an impressed letter W, a design number, and usually "USA". Some of the counterfeit marks also use the W denotation alongside a fake maker’s mark.

Once links with the McCoy family were dropped, Brush added the company name to items more regularly, using the handwritten word "Brush" with the initials USA, in various script styles. Style numbers may be included.

Brush also used an artist’s palette motif ranging in design from a hand-drawn design, with or without the wording Brush Quality, to a stamped design in later years.

A motif representing a jar containing paintbrushes was also used, and this featured the name BRUSH above, with the word WARE within the motif. Some stamps feature the word MARK below the jar.

A range of Brush artware, post-1940, features two common variants of the maker’s mark the first is a round seal containing an urn motif with the words BRUSH above, ART within the urn motif and Studios below. The second is a similar shaped seal with a jar of paint brushes and the letters BRUSH among the brushes, with the word ARTWARE within the jar.

Also post-1940 was a circular design with intersecting lines with Brush Pottery USA in script lettering.

Zia Pueblo Utilitarian Historic Pottery Dough Bowl [SOLD]

This gorgeous historic pottery dough bowl was created by Rosalia Medina Toribio, a Zia Pueblo artist, in the early 1900s. It is in excellent condition for a utilitarian bowl, with light wear from use and no cracks, chips, or repairs. Its patina is rich and smokey, making the bowl&rsquos history of use and handling evident in a way that will appeal to many historic pottery collectors. This piece is rich in character, and its appeal is due in equal part to the potter&rsquos fine work and the deeply patinated surface that has developed over the years.

The bowl&rsquos form is attractive and well-balanced, with a wide mouth and a rim that curves inward just slightly. The bowl&rsquos single design band covers about two thirds of the exterior. From the top and bottom of the band, semicircles emerge, curving in toward the center. Pairs of black rain clouds float within these semicircles. The upper row of semicircles and the lower row are staggered, creating a wavy line in the same rich red as the interior and bottom of the bowl. Like the bowl itself, the designs are simple and natural, flowing around the exterior smoothly and gracefully. This is an excellent example of late historic era Zia pottery.

Rosalia Medina Toribio (ca.1858-1950) was the mother of eight children and a potter of extreme talent. She was photographed by numerous photographers over the years&mdashMatilda Coxe Stevenson in 1887, George Pepper in 1899 and 1900-1901, Edward Curtis in 1925, Wick Miller in 1925-1930, and others. The 1925 Curtis photograph was included in his monumental publication The North American Indian. &ldquoCurtis admired Rosalia Medina Toribio&rsquos work and echoed Stevenson&rsquos 1887 comments that she was a great potter, mentioning that she &lsquois one of the two best potters at Sia, a Pueblo noted for the excellence of its earthenware.&rdquo [Harlow and Lanmon 2003:326]. It is from the many photographs of her, with examples of her pottery, that identifying her pottery is facilitated.

The George Pepper photograph of her was taken during a firing of pottery in which the three bowls visible in the firing are identical to the one presented here. It is from this photograph that we have made the attribution.

&ldquoRosalia Medina Toribio also made dough bowls. Zigzag decoration, probably red zigzags on cream-colored slip with black triangles or semicircles along the top and bottom edges, can be seen clearly on three of the four dough bowls that she was photographed firing. They are of a design that was probably made by several Zia potters, and they are similar to a bowl shown in a doctored photograph of Rosalia Medina Toribio taken by Wick Miller.&rdquo [Harlow and Lanmon 2003:325]. Wick Miller was an Indian trader at San Ysidro, New Mexico.

Although there is no way to distinguish such dough bowls made by her from later ones made by other potters, the comparison of the published photograph of her bowls with the bowl pictured above is too similar to overlook.

Condition: excellent condition, with no structural damage, restoration, or repair.

Provenance: this Zia Pueblo Utilitarian Historic Pottery Dough Bowl is from the collection of Susan McGreevy, former director of the Wheelwright Museum in Santa Fe, and author of several books.

Reference: Harlow, Francis H., and Dwight P. Lanmon. The Pottery of Zia Pueblo, SAR Press

Samarran Pottery Bowl - History

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Mogollon culture American, southwestern New Mexico, Mimbres River Valley
A.D. 1000-1150
Mimbres classic black-on-white style II, painted earthenware
Height: 4 3/4 in. (12.1 cm) diameter: 11 1/4 in. (28.6 cm)
Seth K. Sweetser Fund No. 1 and Gift of the Supporters of the Department of American Decorative Arts and Sculpture
Acquired in 1990

Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Reproduced with permission. © 2000 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. All Rights Reserved.

The Mogollon people took their name from the Mogollon Mountains in New Mexico. From 200 B.C. until about A.D. 1300 their culture flourished. During the Mimbres period (A.D. 1050- c. 1300), the fifth and final period of their short history, they built apartment buildings and drainage systems, and also created what is considered the most important and beautiful pottery from the American Southwest. While their disappearance remains a mystery, their pottery offers great insight into the Mogollon belief system.

A quintessential Mimbres piece, this bowl is decorated with geometric designs rendered in the classic black-on-white style. The shapes represent the Mogollons' six perceived directions of movement, and the shamanistic figure of the quail seen here is typical of the Mogollons' realistic art. Just as often, Mogollon artisans painted fantastic images -- mammals with fishtails, for example, or wings. Many bowls featured scenes of animal-to-human transformation, an indication that the pots were used during religious events. Some archaeologists surmise that the swirling geometric patterns and more fantastic illustrations were inspired by hallucinations like other prehistoric American cultures, the Mogollons were known to use psychoactive plants for spiritual, medicinal, and recreational purposes.

Mimbres pottery was a crucial element of the Mogollon death ritual. Custom dictated that Mogollons be buried under their homes, curled in a fetal position. Prior to burial, a bowl to be placed on the head of the deceased was ceremonially and symbolically killed, the hole in the center of the bowl representing the fatal wound. The killing of the bowl freed the potter's spirit to accompany the dead person into the afterlife. In this way the Mogollons are not considered disappeared, but are believed to live on in their contemporary descendants.

Over the centuries, much Mogollon pottery has been destroyed by looters, but a 1989 law passed in New Mexico prohibiting the disturbance of unmarked human graves has helped to reverse this trend.

From the Collection: Chelsea Pottery "A Brief Bahamian History of Clay"

A beautifully formed piece of handmade ceramic work, produced at the Chelsea Pottery in Nassau in 1960, serves as a great point of departure for talking about some of our Bahamian art histories. Clay work, like drawing and painting, has a history almost as old as humanity itself. Our legacy of pottery here begins with the indigenous peoples of The Bahamas - the Arawaks, Lucayans, and Tainos. As Dr Erica M. James lays out in her key text on Bahamian art history in “Bahamian Modernism”, our background of creative visual culture is much richer and varied than we tend to hear about.

These nomadic and remarkably ingenious peoples carried pottery with them from South America until they reached our limestone archipelago around 500-800 AD. After that, the Spanish and British and even the French who settled in the Abacos in the 1500s would have brought with them their various styles of earthenware vessels. From colonialism to modern capitalism, clay goods have long been used to mark the presence and development of different societies.

“Untitled (Nude Woman)” (1959), Produced at the Chelsea Pottery, ceramic, 8¼ diameter. Part of the National Collection.

Some might be complacent in thinking that our history begins and ends with slavery and colonialism - and while it has been perhaps the most momentous and impactful part of our history, the route from the first wave of colonialism with the Spanish and Christopher Columbus, the various attempts by other Europeans after that, British subjugation and slavery, is by no means the start or end of our story. We have even had clay materials–via Sahara Dust– blown in from the African continent for millennia, sedimenting themselves in red soil and blue holes for longer than memory could ever serve. It is a rich history underpinning the context around the production of this unassuming little plate, shown in the R. Brent Malone retrospective “Reincarnation” at the NAGB in 2015.

The Chelsea Pottery brought with it a paradigm shift for creative practice in The Bahamas, did not mark the start of art education in The Bahamas. With the Chelsea Pottery (and subsequent Bahamian Pottery) came a noted shift and change of pace toward a better local understanding and appreciation of Bahamian visual culture and art as a viable profession in our society. Until the British-based pottery workshop found a space in The Bahamas, which opened in 1957 in Nassau thanks to its inception under Harold Christie and Sir Francis Peek, there had only been two notable art educators documented: Horace Wright and Don Russell. The former, the only art teacher in public schools in the entire country in the 1950s (you read that right), and the latter the first formally trained Bahamian artist to open an art school (in 1950). The last avenue for learning about art history and creative practice was British immigrant David Rawnsley at the aforementioned pottery studio, assisted by a “small group of dedicated artists who hoped to develop the skills of a generation that would go on to become some of this country’s most well-known artists including Kendal Hanna, Maxwell “Max” Taylor, Brent Malone and a very young Eddie Minnis” (James, 2011).

Brent Malone, who upon graduating from Queens College in 1957, would go on to join the hotspot that was the Chelsea Pottery, finding fast friends in the other artists he met there: Taylor, Hanna, Crofton Peddie, and J. Carl Rahming. The troupe of artists would go on to make plates precisely like the one shown, with a series of other designs depicting Bahamian flora and fauna and these experimentations in what has been coined “Bahamian Modernism” by James.

Much of Bahamian art as we currently know it was founded in this genre of art making historically associated with the feminine (due to its usage in domestic spaces throughout time), so often relegated to the world of craft, and some may say this balance of masculine and feminine energies was key in nurturing the creative spirits of so many of those artists we look to for inspiration today.

Appraisal Details

Understanding Our Appraisals

Executive producer Marsha Bemko shares her tips for getting the most out of ANTIQUES ROADSHOW.

Value can change: The value of an item is dependent upon many things, including the condition of the object itself, trends in the market for that kind of object, and the location where the item will be sold. These are just some of the reasons why the answer to the question "What's it worth?" is so often "It depends."

Note the date: Take note of the date the appraisal was recorded. This information appears in the upper left corner of the page, with the label "Appraised On." Values change over time according to market forces, so the current value of the item could be higher, lower, or the same as when our expert first appraised it.

Context is key: Listen carefully. Most of our experts will give appraisal values in context. For example, you'll often hear them say what an item is worth "at auction," or "retail," or "for insurance purposes" (replacement value). Retail prices are different from wholesale prices. Often an auctioneer will talk about what she knows best: the auction market. A shop owner will usually talk about what he knows best: the retail price he'd place on the object in his shop. And though there are no hard and fast rules, an object's auction price can often be half its retail value yet for other objects, an auction price could be higher than retail. As a rule, however, retail and insurance/replacement values are about the same.

Verbal approximations: The values given by the experts on ANTIQUES ROADSHOW are considered "verbal approximations of value." Technically, an "appraisal" is a legal document, generally for insurance purposes, written by a qualified expert and paid for by the owner of the item. An appraisal usually involves an extensive amount of research to establish authenticity, provenance, composition, method of construction, and other important attributes of a particular object.

Opinion of value: As with all appraisals, the verbal approximations of value given at ROADSHOW events are our experts' opinions formed from their knowledge of antiques and collectibles, market trends, and other factors. Although our valuations are based on research and experience, opinions can, and sometimes do, vary among experts.

Appraiser affiliations: Finally, the affiliation of the appraiser may have changed since the appraisal was recorded. To see current contact information for an appraiser in the ROADSHOW Archive, click on the link below the appraiser's picture. Our Appraiser Index also contains a complete list of active ROADSHOW appraisers and their contact details and biographies.

Hagi ware

Hagi ware emerged over 400 years ago. It is a type of Japanese pottery very identifiable for its mixed clay made with three type soils (Daido soil, Mitake soil and Mishima soil) and the use of a feldspar glaze. It originated after the Imjin War (1592-1597) with the &lsquoLee Brothers&rsquo potters from Korea. A feature of the clay is that it is comparatively soft and absorbent. Hagi tea bowls are perfect for green tea. The more often you use them, the greater their charm, as the surface develops a patina from properties in the tea penetrating the inside of the bowl over time.

During the Edo period, the Hagi ware pottery was under clan protection, but with the upheaval of the Meiji Restoration it lost its support and faced hardship, and the majority of it disappeared along with the Westernization of Japan. However, Miwa Kyusetsu established the unique "Kyusetsujiro (Kyusetsu-white)" style, and in addition, the twelfth generation Sakakura Shinbei spread Hagi ware throughout the country, which saved it from decline.

The charm of Hagi ware - The seven disguises of Hagi

Known as bowls loved by masters of the tea ceremony since long ago, so much so that they are celebrated in "Raku first, Hagi second, Karatsu third," they enjoy firmly-rooted popularity.

However, it is not unusual to hear stories such as "When I poured some tea into the bowl I bought at Hagi the other day, it soaked through to the outside of the bowl. I wonder if it's a defective item." That's because in fact, when you first start using Hagi ware, it sometimes leaks.

However, this leaking is actually the biggest feature of Hagi ware. The soft-textured soil of Hagi ware is coarse and has a lot of tiny gaps. Furthermore, moisture permeates into the bowl through fine cracks called "intrusions" which occur on the surface of the bowl due to the difference in shrinkage ratios between the soil and the glaze, and may even come out onto the surface.

By repeatedly pouring tea into a teacup which was leaking at first, the coarse soil gradually becomes clogged by tea stains, and stops leaking. Thus, by using Hagi ware for many years, the likes of the ingredients in the tea soak into the intrusions, and the texture changes. This phenomenon is called "The seven disguises of Hagi," and it is a main feature which makes Hagi ware highly valued as bowls for the tea ceremony among those who like elegant simplicity.

Due to these circumstances, there are many simple Hagi ware pieces, and almost none are decorated with the likes of painting.

A Mimbres Painted Bowl

Elegant geometric patterns, dynamic figures, and sophisticated draftsmanship unite in the ceramic bowl on the opposite page, which shows a man with rabbit ears and tail carrying a basket on his back. It is an excellent example of the pottery created between A.D. 1000 and 1150 by a few anonymous Native American artists. They were members of a group called the Mimbres, early ancestors of the Pueblo Indians, who inhabited large portions of southwestern New Mexico, and their pottery is considered the finest ancient art tradition in North America.

Bowls, the most common form of Mimbres pottery, were used for food storage and preparation, but they also served a final, significant role as funerary objects, buried with the dead beneath the earthen floors of Mimbres homes. While some held mortuary offerings, others, like this one, were ritualistically “killed”—a hole punctured the center of the bowl, making it useless to the living—and placed over the corpse’s head.

Having no potter’s wheel, the Mimbres used local clay rolled into snake-like coils, in much the same way traditional Pueblo potters form their pots today. They piled these coils one on top of another and then smoothed the bowl with a piece of gourd or other shaping tool. But unlike modern Pueblo potters, the Mimbres painted only the interior surfaces of their bowls, laying down the color with thin yucca brushes, creating strong, graphic images of animals, people, plants, and mythic beings—creatures made up of a combination of different animals, or figures that are part man, part beast. Some of these pictures allow us tiny glimpses into Mimbres life but most represent a world of ritual and belief that we know next to nothing about.

It was these extraordinary bowls that first spurred early-twentieth-century archeologists to take an active interest in the seemingly unremarkable culture of the Mimbres. Unlike the spectacular dwellings of the Anasazis found earlier in the Four Corners region, where Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah come together, the Mimbres ruins were mere heaps of stone.

It was not until the bowls captured the interest of a few dedicated amateur and professional archeologists that the true nature of their culture emerged. It is now believed that the Mimbres built the first pueblo settlements—settlements that were among the region’s largest before their mortar dried with the passing centuries and let these sophisticated structures of river cobblestones dissolve into piles of rubble.

The Mimbres villages were scattered throughout southwestern New Mexico, big blocklike complexes of connected storage and living rooms. The compact living quarters, about 45 to 60 feet square, were lit by ceiling hatchways and small vents in an outside wall. Large plazas in the center of each village, surrounded by the housing complexes, provided space for public ceremonies, communal rituals, and food preparation—activities depicted on the bowls.

The Mimbres gathered wild plants and hunted game, but they also cultivated squash, corn, and beans, and—at a time when the Anasazis relied on scarce and unpredictable rainfall—constructed extensive irrigation systems to ensure a steady water supply for their crops. Although their agriculture suggests a static existence, the group did not live in complete isolation. Ocean fish depicted on their bowls indicate the Mimbres traveled as far as the Gulf of California, five or six hundred miles away. And they seem to have traded with various groups to obtain shell jewelry, feathers, stone axes, and other luxury and ritual items.

Their remarkable success at managing their environment may finally have led to the depletion of important natural resources. Skeletal evidence suggests that the Mimbres suffered from poor health and dietary deficiencies. Ultimately, the group disappeared around A.D. 1150, although there is little doubt of their connection to the Pueblo people.

Today their bowls are highly prized: an average pictorial piece sells for between $10,000 and $45,000, and in 1989 a human and snake pictorial went for $82,500 at Sotheby’s. Purely geometric designs might bring $2,500 to $10,000. But Stephen H. Lekson, curator of archeology at the Museum of New Mexico, stresses that “people shouldn’t buy prehistoric pots to put on the mantelpiece.” Virtually all the Mimbres pottery that finds its way to the marketplace is recently stolen from burial sites by scavengers who ravage important archeological remains with bulldozers.

At the same time, others are striving to preserve what is left of the Mimbres culture. Skilled potters at Acoma Pueblo in New Mexico, for instance, blend the ancient motifs with their own, breathing new life into the ancient Mimbres art.

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