19th-Century American Jugs: Relief-Molded Pitchers from the Collection is on view September 15, 2016 through May 5, 2017 in the Lora Robins Gallery of Design from Nature, University of Richmond Museums
. During the nineteenth century, relief-molded jugs were produced in vast quantities in the potteries of America, as well as abroad, and were extremely popular vessels for domestic use. Jugs, the common name for pitchers during that time, were used for water, milk, and a wide variety of alcoholic beverages, and were given as presentation gifts to be displayed rather than used. Produced for the utilitarian purposes of holding and serving liquids, these beautifully designed decorative jugs with sumptuous glazing were in great demand by the buying public.
Although often serving practical household needs, these pieces were also expressions of cultural identity and social roles. As objects of material culture, these jugs are texts through which we are able to interpret the past and to better understand aspects of American society in the nineteenth century. Historian Bernard L. Herman defines material culture as the discourse of objects, where the element of discourse focuses on the expressive or textual aspects of artifacts. The ceramics on view show variations of several popular designs, produced using the technique of relief-molding in their creation and manufacture. These jugs were designed with motifs, from flora to fauna, that would have elicited appreciative responses from the owner, the user, and visitors to the home.
The exhibition explores variations of several designs and looks at the technique of relief-molding used by the designers and potteries in the creation and production of these ceramics. Highlighting nineteenth-century American jugs, the exhibition was selected from the ceramics that were donated by New York collectors Emma and Jay Lewis in 2012. Their gift to the Lora Robins Gallery of more than 200 pieces established the largest museum study collection of American Rockingham pottery on the East Coast. This exhibition, the second installation drawn exclusively from the collection, is concurrent with the long-term installation devoted to nineteenth-century American ceramics in another part of the museum.
The exhibition, organized by the University of Richmond Museums, was curated by Richard Waller, Executive Director, University Museums.