After its founding in 1940, the Ceramic Arts Studio of Madison, Wisconsin mostly specialized in hand-thrown pots. After seeing only mild success, partners Lawrence Rabitt and Rueben Sand would begin looking elsewhere for inspiration.
These are a set of a few of the most famous designs by Betty Harrington. She is also credited with inventing "shelf sitters." Her inspiration for the dramatic dancers was Martha Graham.
Betty Harrington, a secretary for the State of Wisconsin, found her children playing with the clay they found from a recently excavated well.
Without any formal training in art but possessing a passionate creativity, Harrington shaped an incense burner out of the clay.
She brought it to the Ceramic Arts Studio on Blount Street, hoping to have it fired; but she found so much more.
Sand and Rabitt enjoyed her work so much, that Harrington was given a permanent position as head studio designer.
Her most popular designs included pairs of figurines, like this beautiful set of "Comedy" and "Tragedy."
Each female figure is adorned in a vivid robe in opaque forest green; they each wear a differently-shaped hood (Comedy's is like a whale-tale while Tragedy's is tiered).
Each figure holds their respective "crying" and "laughing" masks, each of which are colored with a lighter and slightly more translucent shade of green.
Their faces are expertly painted to give them both a beautiful depth of emotion. The underside of each figurine shows the original maker's mark which reads "Ceramic Arts Studio Madison WIS."
Each features their respective names, "Tragedy" and "Comedy" on the underside.
Comedy shows the number "305 13" in heavy pencil on her underside while Tragedy features the same number but on a sticker.
Both figurines are in excellent condition, though Tragedy exhibits the slightest area on the front of her robe where the glaze is only slightly lighter than the rest which is a firing issue.
The indicator of early, original Harrington directed pieces is a glaze painted number or marks. Both of these have the marks on the interior on the bottom, but we are not able to show in the photographs. These marks were originally intended to be used for inventory purposes, but are good indicators of the authenticity of CAS pieces.
These have a very eclectic look and are very unusual and mysterious. For those of you involved in the dramatic arts, these are a must have. If not, they make for wonderful decor.
Measurements: Comedy: 10 3/8" tall, shoulder to shoulder measurements 1 7/8", base measures 2 3/8", weight: ¾ lbs Tragedy: 10" tall, shoulder to shoulder measures 2 ¾", base measures 2 5/8" wide, weight: 1 lb. Total weight: 1 ¾ lbs.
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