"Stalking Panther" bowl
Marblehead Pottery (active 1904–1936)
Object Place: Marblehead, Massachusetts, United States
9.84 x 27.3 x 27.3 cm (3 7/8 x 10 3/4 x 10 3/4 in.)
Medium or Technique
Wheel-thrown earthenware with incised and glazed decoration
Lorraine and Alan Bressler Gallery (Gallery 222)
Wheel-thrown earthenware with incised and matte glaze decoration
In 1904, Dr. Herbert J. Hall established the Marblehead Pottery to provide occupational therapy to patients suffering from nervous exhaustion and depression. The therapeutic mission soon gave way to commercial pressures, as the small pottery sought to enforce quality control. In 1905, Hall hired Arthur E. Baggs, a formally trained potter and glaze chemist who would take over as director in 1908. Baggs developed Marblehead’s signature style of simple hand-thrown shapes, matte glazes with pebbled grounds, and conventionalized decoration. The vast majority of the pottery’s production was basic commercial wares that fulfilled Baggs’s standards of quality but had no additional adornment. Today, the rarer ornamented pots are renowned for their restrained decoration in the Arts and Crafts manner.
The “Stalking Panther” bowl, with its complex design, rich tones, and exotic panther motif, is an exceptional example of the pottery’s elite production. Most works combined subtle, cool colors and austere, highly regimented, or geometric patterns. On this piece, the strong horizontal band of the design is regularly punctuated by vertical bars around which slink the shadowy figures. The flat, graphic design is further enlivened by the pulsing yellow background. Although it is unclear whether Baggs himself made this unusual piece, the bowl descended in his family with the story that the potter gave it to his wife as a present.
This text was adapted from Ward, et al., MFA Highlights: American Decorative Arts & Sculpture (Boston, 2006) available at www.mfashop.com/mfa-publications.html.
Stamped twice on the bottom: "M [square-rigged ship] P" within a circle
Owned in the artist's family; 1970, inherited from Baggs' wife XXXXX by daughter, Mary Baggs Tweet, LOCATION; 1990, sold by Mary Baggs Tweet to John Axelrod, Boston, Massachusetts; 1990, gift of John Axelrod to the MFA (Accession date: October 24, 1990).
The John Axelrod Collection