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Rare antique Staffordshire press molded creamware flask from the 1770 to 1790 period, hence the c1780 mid-date (see all eight photos). This flask is decorated with a molded panel that depicts a drinking scene in high relief. In the scene, two men are shaking hands while one of them also raises a toast, whereas the other man actively hides his left hand behind his back and out of view to his drinking partner (Photos 1, 2 and 5). The scene is displayed on both sides of this creamware flask (c.f., Photos 1 and 5). Comparative references have revealed that this same drinking scene occurs on four other pearlware Pratt-style press-molded jugs mostly from the 1790s and early 1800s (see notes farther below). And one published source assigns a title to this particular drinking scene and its occurrence on a pearlware jug from about 1800 (see Ivor Noel Hume’s ‘If these Pots Could Talk,’ page 267 and Figure XII.14). In that reference, this drinking scene is called ‘The Recruiter’, however, this title overlooks a crucial element central to the events being depicted - and that key element is the ‘Handshake’.
This alternate title, ‘The Handshake’, is much more appropriate and particularly significant when assessing the full extent of all the behavior on display and captured by the scene. Specifically, it is the contradictory evidence being shown in the scene that is of ultimate importance. That is, while some kind of two party agreement is allegedly being sealed with a handshake, each party seems to take a very different stance as to the enforceability of handshake based on some of the other behavior also displayed in the depiction. And although a seven other examples of this same handshake drinking scene have been recognized on jugs and pitchers to date, the scene’s most important feature - - the handshake - - has seemingly remained overlooked and not discussed.
No mention has been made that the Recruiter, shown here as the well dressed man wearing the fancy feathered hat and military overcoat (see Photos 2 and 3), and his potential enlistee depicted as a simple country chap of presumably unsophisticated ways and who is wearing a banal brimmed hat (see Photos 2 and 4) are shaking hands while the recruiter offers a toast. The Recruiter’s solitary toast falls awkwardly unmatched because his assumed enlistee does not join in on the ritual. The reason why the other man does not raise a matching glass is captured in the scene and once again is not emphasized in published versions of the Handshake. And it is this other unrecognized action displayed by the second man, the alleged enlistee, that provides crucial insight into the social and historical importance of the molded scene.
For these reasons, the title ‘The Handshake’ is much more appropriate because the handshake custom in this case holds very different social meaning for each of its participants based on their different upbringing. This scene indicates that an agreement seal only by a handshake by can be socially negated by taking a specific ritual action at the time the handshake is performed and in accord with the rural folk beliefs held by one of the men. More about how one can void a social contract allegedly sealed with a handshake will be discussed further below.
The intent of this meeting held outside under a grape arbor at table associated with a fancy pub is to seal by way of a handshake and mutual consensus some sort of contract or agreement. Given the Line Regiment Recruiter’s formal task, this common country fellow has probably just agreed to sign up for a tour of duty after imbibing some alcoholic beverage and food. There is an empty plate, mostly drained ale pitcher and two well smoked tobacco pipes on the table leaving little room for imagination and probably all expended at the expense of the Recruiter. However, and this is very important, the simple country chap is actually outwitting the Recruiter because he is not joining in with a toast and is, instead, crossing two fingers on his other hand hidden behind his back (Photo 4) to negate the handshake with no regrets or worries. And this is why it is so important to name this molded scene as ‘The Handshake’ since the Recruiter is actually the one being duped and the simple chap is both street savvy and cunning.
Scenes on English Pottery Offering Glimpses into Social Commentary
This creamware flask appears to document a situation where one party can contemporaneously void a mutual agreement sealed with a handshake simply by also crossing their fingers at the right moment. If so, then the flask also indicates that this folk custom extends back among the English more than 237 years. And this means that the most important coded message encapsulated by the scene on this flask is that two parties should always have both of their hands in full view as they enter into an agreement that is only sealed with a handshake. The regiment Recruiter certainly shows his other hand by offering a toast, but this gesture is not reciprocated by the other party and this alone should raise some concern on the part of the Recruiter. Maybe the Recruiter underestimated his mark and now after consuming a little too much alcohol is unaware of being played by his mark as the roles are reversed. Of course, this is just one opinion of this scene frozen in creamware and removed from a kiln more than 227 years ago.
Other Occurrences of ‘The Handshake’ Panel on Staffordshire Wares
First, interpreting this Handshake scene on pottery dating from 1780 is very different than when it is placed on pottery produced in 1805 or 1815. For example, if the Recruiter is soliciting enlistees for British regiments to be sent to America to fight colonial insurgents in the late 1770s and early 1780s is very different from a Recruiter soliciting enlistees for joining Napoleon’s forces to fight in Europe (e.g., for a version of this point, please see Ivor Noel Hume’s ‘If these Pots Could Talk,’page 267 and Figure XII.14 and his discussion of the Handshake scene on a pearlware pitcher from the period of the Napoleonic Wars). These points are noted here but are also well beyond the scope of this listing which is simply to discuss the creamware flask and its possible context.
The salient issues here revolve around the Handshake scene and its period of occurrence on British ceramics, whether pottery, stoneware or porcelain. First, a review of published sources has identified the Handshake scene on seven other ceramic vessels all from the 1790 to 1820 period (some may say possibly c1785 for one or two pearlware examples). The creamware flask listed here changes the number to eight occurrences of the handshake scene, pushes the time span back to possibly 1770 as the earliest occurrence, and expands the ware types to include creamware. Of all eight examples, six are Pratt-style pearlware, one is Castleford-style white stoneware, and one is creamware (the flask listed here). And no porcelain Handshake examples have been identified so far.
Second, five of eight Handshake vessels also have potter’s names impressed on their bases. All five marked jugs are press molded pearlware decorated with Pratt-type underglaze high temperature colors. Four pearlware jugs have the name ‘WEDGWOOD’ impressed on their bases. The one remaining marked Handshake jug is also Pratt ware and has ‘STEVENSON’ impressed on its base. The exact pottery responsible for each mark is not unequivocally identifiable since both surnames have been used by different families and family members (see Geoffrey A. Godden’s ‘Encyclopedia of British Pottery and Porcelain Marks’ published in 1964 by Bonanza Books, New York 1964: pp 596-598, and also pp 655 to 661).
As to what pottery produced this creamware flask, the jury remains out. The master mould used to produce the Handshake scene is not exactly like the master molds used to produce the Handshake scene on any of the mark jugs. But since it has a longer foreground, the master mould from this creamware flask may have been used by subsequent potteries to make pearlware jugs after shortening the foreground while adding some peripheral vegetation and removing the leafy grape vines.
Some collectors feel that Josiah Wedgwood may have produced the Wedgwood marked jugs. Others think that Ralph Wedgwood may be the potter responsible for them. And for those jugs marked WEDGWOOD, they would have been produced either by Josiah Wedgwood I or his son, Josiah Wedgwood II, depending on exactly when they were press moulded and fired. Josiah Wedgwood I died in 1795 (January 3) and the pottery business was passed on to his second oldest son, Josiah Wedgwood II. Consequently, wares produced after 1794 would have been under Josiah the II ownership.
John and Griselda Lewis indicated that searches of the Wedgwood factory archives have yielded no records, pattern books, price lists or other supporting evidence that the Wedgwood pottery at Etruria ever produced Pratt-style pearlware pitchers and jugs (see John Lewis and Griselda Lewis’s ‘Pratt Ware: English and Scottish relief decorated and underglaze coloured earthenware 1780 to 1840', published by the Antique Collectors’ Club, Second Edition, 2006, see pp 40-41). However the Lewises did note that an Etruria oven book for June 1800 in the records filed with the Wedgwood Museum (Barlaston) listed white stoneware jugs with figures on the front and an upswept handle much like the handle also seen on Pearlware examples having an impressed WEDGWOOD mark. The Wedgwood stoneware jug is sketched in the oven book’s margin and just might be taken as possible support even though no marked examples have been documented to date (ibid. J & G Lewis 2006: pg 40, see note under caption for Smoker and Drinkers jug, c1795 and which has a molded Handshake scene in relief on one face).
However, an unmarked Castleford-style white stoneware jug with the Handshake scene on one face and the same up-swept handle as the handle shown in the oven book has been located (ibid. see page 53 in J & G Lewis 2006). This example dates from about c1795-1800. Furthermore, its Handshake scene and handle are identical to a pearlware Handshake jug with a WEDGWOOD mark impressed on its base. The proof is not perfect and provenance remains tentative especially in light of no factory wasters and no marked Wedgwood creamware examples.
Other researcher have suggested Ralph Wedgwood may have been the potter who produced the pearlware handshake jugs. Ralph allegedly used an impressed WEDGWOOD mark on some creamware figurines that he produced at his pottery in Burslem, Staffordshire in the 1785 to 1796 period (see Geoffrey A. Godden’s ‘Encyclopedia of British Pottery and Porcelain Marks’ published in 1964 by Bonanza Books, New York 1964 pg 661 Mark #4103). Ralph had also been reprimanded for using a mark styled as WEDGWOOD & CO. since it confused consumers and seemed to capitalize on Josiah Wedgwood’s products. Ralph Wedgwood’s creamwares were not always of the best quality and he produced at his pottery in Burslem (Staffordshire) and then subsequently at Ferrybridge (Yorkshire) between about 1790 and 1800s (ibid. Godden 1964: 662, Mark #4104).
The last Photo, Photo 9, shows a cream-colored plate with a gadroon rim dating from the 1760 to 1770 period that is not for sale here. Only the creamware flask shown in the first eight photos is for sale in this listing. The gadroon edged plate is used to illustrates two of the Whieldon-type clouded colors also found in tiny splashes on this creamware flask (e.g., see Photo 2 for several manganese brown splashes). These small splashes are noted as further support of the earlier date assigned to this flask and were caused by contemporaneous production of creamware items decorated in the clouded Whieldon palette and tradition. Finally, the question of exactly who produced the flask offered here remains problematic for the present. Possibly the moulded leafy grape vine motif offers a better chance at identifying the pottery that produced this flask. If any viewer can offer further insight on this issue, kindly drop me an email - thanks, Doc.
So if you are looking for a rare antique creamware flask with a historically provocative press-moulded scene also found on pearlware jugs sporting an impressed Wedgwood mark, then make sure you seriously consider this flask while it is still available especially since comparable pre 1790 flasks can often run $300 to $700 over the price quoted here. And as always, this creamware flask also comes with my Docs Antiques 100% satisfaction guarantee or you may return it using my return policy (see complete Return Policy details farther below). You also have the option to ask for a customized lay-away plan for purchasing this item (and others when combining orders) by simply requesting the terms you wish to use and then let Doc take care of setting it up and combining any items together as desired (payment installments may be modified at any time should the unexpected ever arise, just let me know by email and I’ll change the due dates).
SIZE: This flask stands about 6 1/4 inches tall and has a maximum width from side to side of about 4 1/4 inches (Photo 5). Also, it measures about 2 1/8 inches from front to back when excluding the depth added by any of the grape clusters. The clusters protrude out from the main body of the flask about 3/16 inches each but only add another 1/8 inches overall due to the curvature of each face (see Photos 1 and 8). The base itself forms an elongated oval that measures about 1 3/8 inches by 3 inches and rises gently upward to create a recess measuring about 1/16 inches in the middle (see Photo 8). The flask sits on the outer edge of the base that creates a faux foot ring. The flask’s mouth has a thickened and squared lip (Photos 6 and 7) and an exterior maximum outer lip diameter of about 1 1/8 inches. The interior mouth opening would seat a cork with a diameter of about 7/8 inches. This flask weighs about 1/2 lbs empty and final shipping weight is estimated to be between 1 3/4 lbs and 2 1/2 lbs.
CONDITION: This creamware flask is good condition with no body chips, major hairlines, cracks, major stains, deep scratches, repairs or restoration. The glaze has some fine crazing that is not readily evident unless examined under strong light up close. The only declarations to mention are three tiny hairlines on the neck starting at the rim and extending down for 1/4 to 3/8 inches maximum. The short hairlines were likely caused by using an utensil on occasion to loosen and remove a cork that had been lodged too tightly. Two of the hairlines define a small fragment that measures about 1/4 by 1/4 inches that is shown in Photo 7 with a pen pointing to it. Some areas near the rim, these hairlines and inside the mouth exhibit some darkening probably due to the cork used to seal the flask, but this mellowing is also not overly apparent up close (Photos 7 and 8). Of course, if the buyer is not completely satisfied, then she/he may return this small pot for a refund (see our complete return policy for all details as stated below).
SHIPPING: This flask weighs about 1/2 lbs empty and final shipping weight is estimated to be between 1 3/4 lbs and 2 1/2 lbs. All US mainland buyers pay $15.70 for well packed USPS Priority Mail and this is an estimated savings of $3 to $8 since insurance and tracking are INCLUDED in this amount. That is, the insured postage you pay for delivery in the US is always less than our actual costs or we refund the difference back to you, and there are never any handling or packing fees added to any of your Docs Antiques purchases, ever. All international buyers will also pay less than the actual shipping costs for all verifiable locations outside the Continental US mainland. Send us your address and we will email you up to four options for sending this item to your country. We only use the USPS for International shipping to reduce broker fees and certain Custom’s charges when an item is over 100 years old and the option you select allows for enclosing a special waiver. Please note that international import duties, taxes and other special charges are not included in the item price or our shipping costs and these additional charges are the Buyer's responsibility. We do offer a petition waiver for VAT relief on the behalf of the buyer which may help reduce certain import taxes when your country grants such petitions for items over 100 years old and the shipping option you select allows a waiver request to be included. Please check with your country's Customs Office to determine what these additional costs will be prior to purchasing this item -- thanks.
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c1780 Scarce English Creamware Flask with Handshake Drinking Scene in Relief (Wedgwood or . . .)
$648 USD SOLD
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