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Bird Figurine

Shop of Rudolph Christ
Place Made:
Salem North Carolina United States of America
Date Made:
lead glazed earthenware
LOA 2 3/4
Accession Number:
DESCRIPTION: Earthenware molded toy bird with copper green glaze over a buff paste. Having feathers, feet, and face.

This press-molded bird figurine is lead-glazed earthenware with green glaze.

Press Molded
Moravian potters in North Carolina made press-molded earthenware for more than one hundred and twenty-five years. The range of forms documented by surviving objects, molds, and references in pottery inventories is far greater than that of any contemporary American ceramic tradition. From smoking pipes to stove tiles, the Moravian potters at Bethabara and Salem expanded the production of press-molded earthenware to include figural bottles and casters, non-figural bottles, and toys. Rudolph Christ can be credited for the successful production and marketing of pressmolded figural wares during his tenure as master of the pottery at Salem (1789–1821). (Art in Clay Gallery Guide)
Flasks & Figures
Moravian potters made thrown flasks, bottles, and other utilitarian forms long before introducing press-molded variants around 1800. During the first quarter of the nineteenth century, the variety of figural objects listed in the pottery inventories expanded with each passing year. A molded flask with a stylized flower may represent one of the “57 bottles” listed in the 1810 inventory of the Salem pottery or one of the sixty green bottles listed in the 1824 inventory. In 1819 the stock-in-trade of the Salem pottery included eighty-four eagle bottles and plaster molds for producing two different sizes. Of the three bottles known to survive, all are the same size and have green glaze applied on a white slip. The 1819 inventory also listed one hundred and seventy-five “ladies” in three different sizes.
Children enjoyed press-molded wares specially designed for them including doll heads to which cloth bodies could be attached. A figural form likely inspired by contact with Native Americans was the so-called “Indian.” The ceramic Indians listed at 10 shillings each in the 1806 inventory were the most expensive bottles made at the Salem pottery. No examples of this figure or its molds are known to survive.(Art in Clay Gallery Guide)

Two different owl bottles are listed in the 1806 inventory, a large one priced at 5 shillings and a smaller one at 3 shillings 6 pence. One of the former and two of the latter are known. Chickens designed for dispensing spices or fine powders first appear on the 1810 inventory of the Salem Pottery. The most expensive bird figures were “turkeys” and “geese.” Both forms are listed on the 1806 inventory, valued at 48 shillings per dozen. A few small birds whose molds survive were probably intended as toys. (Art in Clay Gallery Guide)

Also see “Ceramics in America” 2009

Credit Line:
Gift of R. Philip Hanes