DECORATION: The undulating line and dot decoration on the marely of this dish is reminiscent of decoration on Mocha-ware that was popular at the same time that the Rudolph Christ shop was in operation.
SIGNIFICANCE OF DECORATION: Motifs in Moravian slipware have theological underpinnings. At a meeting of the Pilgrim Congregation of London in 1749, Zinzendorf cut open a pomegranate to show how it is an allegory for the beauty of the bride of Christ filled with the blood of Christ. Leonardo da Vinci and Sandro Boticelli used similar metaphorical imagery in their religious paintings. Moravian potters often represented pomegranates partially cut open with crosshatched or parallel lines representing the center and, occasionally, jeweled dots representing seeds on the outside.
ARTIST: Rudolph Christ was born in 1750 in Laufen, Duchy of Württemberg (Herzogtum Württemberg) and died July 26, 1833 in Salem, North Carolina. He was the second master potter in Wachovia, having been trained by the progenitor of the Wachovia earthenware tradition, Gottfried Aust. Although his slip decorated wares are reminiscent of the work of Aust, Rudolph Christ can be credited for the successful production and marketing of press molded figural wares during his tenure as master of the pottery at Salem(1789–1821). Rudolph Christ apprenticed under Gottfried Aust in Salem, North Carolina. He established his own pottery in Bethabara in 1786 and worked there until 1789. He succeeded Aust as master potter in Salem from 1789 to 1821. (Ceramics in America 2009) The production of press-molded wares also continued through the tenure of John Holland, who apprenticed under Rudolph Christ and as noted in Moravian records, inherited molds used in Christ’s shop. Rudolph Christ retired in 1821 and John Holland took over as Salem’s third master potter. Although the pottery ceased to operate as a congregational business in 1829, production of press-molded wares continued in the shop of Holland and another Salem, potter, Heinrich Schaffner until at least the middle of the nineteenth century.
For additional biographical information about Rudolph Christ and Gottfried Aust, please see CERAMICS IN AMERICA, 2009, ed. by Robert Hunter and Luke Beckerdite.