Menokin’s Mysterious Jar

The Menokin Foundation is very fortunate to have a large collection of masonry, stone, construction timbers and interior paneling. But because the house passed hands many times after the deaths of Frank and Becky Lee, and eventually out of the Lee and Tayloe families all together, there are no interior furnishings or decorative items left from the time of their ownership.

Indeed, the only furnishings from Menokin that we have were donated in 2009 by Mrs. Douglas Forrest Barnes. These gifts included a 19th-century walnut table and chairs, and a stoneware jar, which belonged to the Belfield family who owned and occupied Menokin from 1879 to 1935. (Read more about the history of this gift below.)

collection-layers

Our current student intern, Allie Lyth, was tasked with researching the stoneware jar, about which little has ever been known. Her efforts uncovered a genre of primitive ceramics called “American Salt Glazed Ovoid Stoneware,” where our jar seems to fit nicely.

Salt Glazed blue decorated 19th-century Ovoid Jars have some defining characteristics. Samples found online explain the similarities and difference between jars from different states, which often varied in style, design, color and handles.

Samples of Ovoid Stoneware jars from Z&K Antiques.
Samples of Ovoid Stoneware jars from Z&K Antiques.

The design on the image of the jar below, from the Cowan’s Auction website, is very similar to the design on Menokin’s jar. Note the difference between the two in the shape of the lip and the overall shape of the jar.

Second quarter 19th century, semi-ovoid jar having applied lunate handles and brushed tulip and leaf designs surrounding the exterior; attributed to Virginia. Image courtesy of Cowan's Antiques.
Second quarter 19th century, semi-ovoid jar having applied lunate handles and brushed tulip and leaf designs surrounding the exterior; attributed to Virginia. Image courtesy of Cowan’s Antiques.

Menokin’s unsigned Ovoid jar has a “catty-wampus” shape with its lopsided opening and irregular body. Does this hurt or increase the value? Perhaps a trip to Antiques Roadshow is in order?

2 thoughts on “Menokin’s Mysterious Jar”

  1. That is a great jar. Ceramics in America, edited by Rob Hunter, has had several articles in recent years on American stoneware manufacturers in the region, so you might be able to find something similar in there. If you can’t find any direct leads, I can put you in touch with Rob Hunter to hopefully track down where this was made.

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