Face jug

Unrecorded Edgefield District potter American
Manufacturer Unknown Old Edgefield District Pottery

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 706

This rare face vessel, one of only a handful by this skilled, unidentified potter, is one of the most recognizable and iconic examples of this enigmatic form. Technically and aesthetically, it is distinct among the large group of 19th-century Edgefield-made face jugs. Harvest jugs—so called for the horizontal handle atop the vessel—are uncommon, and at over ten inches in height, this one is quite large. Notably, the hand-modeled features are quite different than those on the majority of known face vessels, which are typically depicted with exaggerated features in a grotesque or menacing manner. The applied elements on this example are delicately modeled in high relief, with particular attention to the facial anatomy, proportions, and symmetry. The features are sensitively rendered with acute detail, such as the eyebrows with incised lines for hair and the delicate lips revealing small, kaolin teeth. The beautiful mottled-green alkaline glaze flecked with areas of iron spotting is in contrast to the dark brown alkaline glazes on most face vessels. This rare jug is also significant for its likeness to the face vessel in J. A. Palmer’s 1882 stereopticon photograph "The Aesthetic Darkey," a satirical image inspired by a famous period cartoon of Oscar Wilde depicted as a monkey admiring a lily and sunflower. From Palmer’s "Aiken and Vicinity" series, this challenging image is the earliest visual document of an Edgefield face vessel.

Unrecorded  Edgefield District potter (American), Alkaline-glazed stoneware with kaolin, American

Due to rights restrictions, this image cannot be enlarged, viewed at full screen, or downloaded.

Open Access

As part of the Met's Open Access policy, you can freely copy, modify and distribute this image, even for commercial purposes.


Public domain data for this object can also be accessed using the Met's Open Access API.