After hiding away in private collections and a California coat closet for nearly 200 years, a valuable piece of early American decorative art returns home to New York, where it will be available for the public to enjoy at the New York State Museum
thanks to a generous donation by collector Adam Weitsman, President of Upstate Shredding. At the same time, Weitsman also donated a monumental jug, two water coolers deemed important by the museum and a gallon jug decorated with the image of a ship.
The addition of these recent pieces of decorated stoneware surely put the New York State Museum on the map as having the premier collection of American stoneware.
Not only are the decorations unique and outstanding as works of American folk art, but the documentation and history of these recent acquisitions enable us to learn so much more about the stoneware industry and those artists who left us such remarkable works of art, said John Scherer, Historian Emeritus of the New York State Museum. The Museum and the public are indebted to Adam Weitsman for his generosity and foresight in establishing and continuing to add to this wonderful collection. It's always like Christmas, I can hardly wait to see the next new addition!
Weitsman has made many donations to the museum in the past, and the Herington incised jug will be an important - and valuable - addition to the collection.
The Double-Handled Stoneware Jug with Profuse Incised Decoration, Inscribed "BENJAMIN HERINGTON, was bought at auction by Adam Weitsman for, at the time, a record-breaking $138,000. The jug, considered a masterpiece, was made as a memorial to a 22-year-old potter who drowned in the Norwich, Ct., harbor in 1823.
According to the auction house Crocker Farm, which handled the sale, This jug is one of the most profusely-incised examples of American stoneware known, and one of the most significant discoveries in the field over the past several years. The form and decoration are exceptional, and the ability to tie this piece to a known potter adds to its historical significance.
The double-handled jug joins two other pottery donations from Weitsman, including a 21 .5-inch tall jug made in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., in the mid- to late-1800s, and a one-gallon stoneware jug decorated with the image of a ship, made in New York State between 1835-1846. Also donated by Weitsman were two water coolers made by Jonah Boynton of Albany the museum described as being very important acquisitions that he purchased from New York City dealer Leigh Keno.
Stoneware was an integral part of the history of New York State and the expansion of the country in early days of exploration and settlement. In a time before refrigeration, stoneware was used to store and transport foodstuffs and drinking water. Clay deposits ideal for making stoneware were found in what is now New Jersey, lower Manhattan and eastern Long Island. Based on this proximity, New York State became a large stoneware producer. The artisans in New York developed durable vessels decorated with rich designs using incision techniques and distinctive rich blue coloring.
Weitsman began collecting American stoneware at age 11 and made his first donation of more than 120 pieces to the museum in 1996. In a 2009 article for Antiques and Fine Art Magazine, Art for the People: Decorated Stoneware from the Weitsman Collection, Scherer wrote, Since his initial donation Weitsman has continued to add at an aggressive pace to the museum's holdings, making it the premier collection of American decorated stoneware in the country.
The Weitsman Stoneware Collection is available to view by the general public at the New York State Museum in Albany, New York.