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Lion Figure

Artist/Maker:
Bell, Solomon
Place Made:
Winchester or Strasburg Virginia United States of America
Date Made:
1840-1850
Medium:
earthenware –lead-glazed
Dimensions:
HOA: 11″; WOA: 6″; LOA: 14 1/2″
Accession Number:
2024.95
Description:
The lion figure is large, measuring 11 inches in height at the head, and is 14 ½ inches in length. It is also heavy, but is not entirely solid. Two wheel thrown cylinders perpendicular to one another make up the neck and body of the lion. The jaw and face of the lion are another wheel-thrown component, all attached, modeled, and incised to make the mouth, nose, and green eyes. There is a hole on the underside of the chest giving ventilation through to the mouth which is open between the incised teeth. This ventilation kept the modeled lion from cracking or exploding from moisture expansion in the kiln firing. The legs were either extruded or pulled and then applied to the body, and the tail was pulled and modeled like a large handle. The underside of the front and back legs are carved out with visible cut marks remaining. The mane, whiskers, and tail of the lion are made up of very finely extruded pieces of clay piled onto the surface and colored with a manganese brown slip. The lion is coated overall with lead glaze.

MAKER: Solomon Bell (1817-1882) was the youngest of Peter Bell’s sons to make pottery. Peter Bell was a prominent potter in Hagerstown, Maryland, and Winchester, Virginia. Solomon Bell trained for many years under his father before leaving in 1839 for several years to work with his brother John in Waynesboro. Solomon Bell started marketing his pottery in Winchester, Virginia in 1843, and then moved to Strasburg in 1845 where he went into partnership with his brother Samuel throughout the 1850s. Ceramic historian H.E. Comstock has speculated that Bell’s production of this form might have been inspired by the sign of the Red Lion Tavern, which was located just a few blocks from the family pottery in Winchester. Shenandoah Valley potters like the Bells, Anthony Bacher (1824-1889), and members of the Eberly family excelled in the production of modeled animals, fancy hollow ware, wall pockets, watch holders and other decorative ceramics popular during the last half of the nineteenth century. Most potters engaged in this type of work also made a broad range of utilitarian vessels in both stoneware and earthenware.

Comstock, H.E. THE POTTERY OF THE SHENANDOAH REGION. Winston-Salem, NC: MESDA, 1994.

History:
This delightful figure descended in the family of Mrs. W.C. Newman of Hagerstown, Maryland. A letter she wrote in 1939 said that the lion “was made for my mother by Great Uncle Solomon Bell…I feel safe in saying the…[lion] was made for my mother before I was born in 1857.” The lion was made by the potter Solomon Bell (1817-1882) for his niece, Mary Elizabeth Bell (1830-1914), probably around the time Bell moved from Winchester, Virginia, to Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, to work with his brother and Mary Elizabeth’s father, John Bell (1800-1880). Solomon is believed to have left Winchester in 1839, and returned to resume work with his father and brother Samuel by 1842. Mary Elizabeth married Alfred Newman, and the lion descended to their son William Carlton Newman (1857-1953) of Hagerstown, Maryland. The dealers of this piece furnished a letter dated November 18, 1939 from the previous owner. The letter states in part: “In reference to the large dog, which was made for my Mother by my Great Uncle Solomon Bell of Strasburg, Virginia, who with his brother Samuel Bell conducted a pottery at that place.”