Collection: Mariner Southern Ceramics Gallery: Faith

Water Cooler
Peter Bell Family
Winchester, Virginia
Salt-glazed stoneware
HOA: 16 1/8″; WOA: 11 1/4″
The William C. and Susan S. Mariner Collection (5813.7)

Numerous cultures throughout the world view pottery-making as a metaphor for the creation of the world and the human race. Although most Southern ceramics play a strictly secular role in everyday life, a deep-seated connection to the divine is present. In some cases, ceramics have an overt place in religion, faith, and spirituality. The highly decorated slipware dishes of the Salem and Wachovia potters are rich with symbolic reflection of Moravian cosmology. For potter Peter Bell of Winchester, Virginia, the applied images of Jesus, John the Baptist, and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove adorning his salt-glazed cooler suggest that it served as receptacle for holy water used in the baptisms of the Lutheran Church. The barrel form, deep-cobalt floral decoration, and elaborate rope-twist handle also contribute to the special significance of this object. In spite of the symbolic intentions of the potter, a recent cleaning of the cooler’s interior revealed that in its later life the vessel was a container for molasses.