This late 19th century water pitcher is a rare sample of traditional Cantonware pottery. Typical of ballast ware, it is gray with a cobalt hand painting continuous around the piece including a "rain and cloud" border around the top rim. Photos show all four sides so that you can see the complete drawing of multiple houses (one with a gentleman in the window), mountains, trees, a bridge, as well as small boats on the water. Admittedly, a large section of the top edge has been broken and repaired. Price listed is well below current market value of one in perfect condition.
Comes from the private collection of a Maryland Eastern Shore estate. Stands 7-inches tall and weighs just over 3-pounds, proof of how these heavy porcelain dishes survived loaded in barrels for ship ballast enroute from China to America. Those that did survive became favorites of wealthy Americans primarily from the 1850's to the early 1900's. Pitting and white bumps (termed "oatmeal") are a result of uneven firing when they were made in kilns by the hundreds. Cantonware was shipped in the holds of sailing ships as early as 1800 and for this reason became known as ballast ware. America was the primary destination for Cantonware but production stopped for 20 years during wars in China and by 1890 new import laws required these pieces to be marked with country of origin. Although some arrived even into the early 1900's those paper labels have long ago fallen away. As their popularity skyrocketed among American gentry, Chinese factories began shipping them for direct sale.
This piece is unmarked and pock-marked with dimples and imperfections which means it is either true ballast ware and dated before 1890 or it has lost its early 1900's paper label. Its coarse appearance, flaws and imperfections are part of the charm of Cantonware, expressing their age and origins. Base is 5-1/4 inches diameter and circumference around the widest area is 22-inches. Black mark on the top of the handle is unexplained.
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