Note: This same design may be seen in the Single Brothers’ House on a six-plate stove, inscribed “R. Patton, 1797” and also attributed to the Redwell Furnace.
DESIGN: This image reflects the fable in which two birds offer to carry a tortoise on a pole borne between them, under the condition that it will not speak during the journey. The tortoise forgets its promise and starts to speak, losing its grip on the pole and falling to the ground.
This popular fable appears in many versions including ancient Sanskrit manuscripts and the French fables of Jean de la Fontaine (1621-1695). In a 1798 London publication, the “modern fable” of “The Tortoise and the Two Ducks” tells how the ducks tell a curious crow that their passenger is “the queen of the Tortoises.” (Note the head of the crow on the right side of the plate.) When the tortoise proudly attempts to confirm her new title, down she goes. The moral, of course, is that one’s downfall will be caused by vanity, idle talk, and wishing for powers that nature never intended.
RELATED WORKS: Stove plate (Storage) (MESDA Acc. No. 3290.24); Stove plate (Metals Gallery – neoclassical urns and scroll work) cast at Redwell furnace when it was operated by George Mayberry and Benjamin Pennypacker (MESDA Acc. No. 2024.138); Six-plate Stove, R. Patton, 1797 (Single Brothers’ House, Vorsteher’s Room) MESDA Acc. No. 4323.