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The Harry Root Collection of 18th Century English Pottery

Staffordshire Saltglaze Sauce Boat

Staffordshire Enameled White Saltglazed Stoneware Sauce Boat, to be sold in the July 13, 2013 European Furniture & Decorative Arts auction (Lot 1377, Estimate $2,500-$3,500)

Harry Root was a collector of 18th century English pottery. For over forty years he assembled his collection with a keen eye and unmatched enthusiasm.

His story begins when he moved into his home. Back in 1972 while house hunting in a northern Chicago suburb, Harry saw an advertisement for a house that met his requirements and asked a real estate agent to arrange a showing. He arrived on time for a four o’clock appointment and didn’t leave until after nine-thirty in the evening. What kept him there so long was not the house itself – in fact he realized after leaving that he didn’t even see the entire house. What held his interest was the owner’s collection of 18th century English earthenwares.

Harry had previously collected cow creamers from the same period as he was part owner of a dairy. But the quality and variety of wares in the house totally captivated him. Harry bought the house and tried in vain to impress the owners into selling some of their pieces before their move into smaller quarters. Although he didn’t manage to buy anything, he did find a gift waiting for him on the mantel in the living room when he started moving in with his furnishings.

It was a large tortoiseshell decorated creamware platter, a bottle of scotch whiskey with two glasses, and a note welcoming him to his new home and to the world of “Whieldon.” Needless to say, he was hooked. From that moment on he focused his collecting on English pottery from the 18th century.

Staffordshire Cream Colored Earthenware Fruit Baskets

Pair of Staffordshire Cream Colored Earthenware Fruit Baskets and Underplates England, c. 1760, to be sold in the July 13, 2013 European Furniture & Decorative Arts auction (Lot 1350, Estimate $4,000-$6,000)

Thomas Whieldon’s name has become synonymous with 18th century English pottery, although in truth there were many potters in Staffordshire, Yorkshire, and Derbyshire that manufactured similar wares. In many cases the wares are so similar that it’s difficult to attribute pieces to a specific potter. Up until about twenty years ago it was quite normal to refer to the majority of these pieces as Whieldon-type wares.

Since then, excavations and research have revealed a plethora of names associated with these wares including Wedgwood, Greatbatch, Astbury, Booth, the Elers brothers and Dwight of Fulham. Harry Root’s collection tried to capture the breadth and variety of wares produced throughout 18th century England — from early red stoneware tea wares manufactured in imitation of the Chinese Yixing wares to a white salt-glazed stoneware.

Red stoneware was first introduced in England by the Elers brothers in the late 17th century, and came to an end at about 1700. Not until the middle of the 18th century was it again produced by the English potters, often in forms resembling silver and pewter. Salt-glaze was England’s first attempt to compete against the profitable Chinese export porcelain market. The addition of salt in the firing process gives the surface of these wares an almost orange peel texture. The range of decoration spanned from slip casting and press molding to lathe-finished thrown wares. Enameling, transfer-printing, gilding and scratch blue were other common forms of decoration.

Staffordshire Cream Colored Earthenware Teapot and Cover

Staffordshire Cream Colored Earthenware Teapot and Cover, England, c. 1777, to be sold in the July 13, 2013 European Furniture & Decorative Arts auction (Lot 1360, Estimate $1,200-$1,800)

Cream-colored earthenwares, often considered England’s greatest contribution to the history of ceramics, make up a large part of the Root Collection, adding vibrant splashes of colors, often in mottled patterns resembling tortoiseshell. Overglaze enamel decoration was also much in evidence, as was black glazed and green glazed wares, agate wares, and even wares resembling pineapples and melons.

For scholars everywhere, a portion of the Root Collection has been donated to the Art Institute of Chicago. For collectors everywhere, Skinner is proud to offer the Root Collection of English Pottery in our July 2013 sale of European Furniture and Decorative Arts featuring Fine Ceramics.

Watch Harry Root give a tour of his collection in these two videos.

Staffordshire Earthenware Cow Creamers

Staffordshire Earthenware Cow Creamers, England, to be sold in the July 13, 2013 European Furniture & Decorative Arts auction (Estimates $500-$700 each)

Staffordshire Camel Teapot

Staffordshire White Salt Glazed Stoneware Camel Teapot, to be sold in the July 13, 2013 European Furniture & Decorative Arts auction (Lot 1168, Estimate $1,500-$2,500)

Staffordshire Solid Agate Tankard

Staffordshire Solid Agate Tankard, England, c. 1775, to be sold in the July 13, 2013 European Furniture & Decorative Arts auction (Lot 1078, Estimate $2,000-$4,000)

Staffordshire Saltglaze Teapot

Staffordshire White Saltglazed Stoneware Teapot, to be sold in the July 13, 2013 European Furniture & Decorative Arts auction (Lot 1072, Estimate $1,500-$2,500)

Staffordshire Melon Teapot

Staffordshire Cream Colored Earthenware Melon Teapot, to be sold in the July 13, 2013 European Furniture & Decorative Arts auction (Lot 1027, Estimate $1,000-$1,500)

One thought on “The Harry Root Collection of 18th Century English Pottery

  1. Pingback: Fine Ceramics and Sculpture Auction | Bent Family and Harry Root Collections | Skinner | Skinner Inc.

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