Lot 508
  • 508

Rare sgraffito glazed red earthenware plate or deep dish with floral sprays, attributed to David Spinner (1758-1811) Milford Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, 1785-1805

20,000 - 30,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Glazed red earthenware


Edwin Atlee Barber, Philadelphia 
Mrs. L. Manievich de Forest, New York 
The Metropolitan Museum of Art Collection (1934-1952, no. 34.100.127)
Joe Kindig Jr., York, Pennsylvania 
Joe Kindig III, York, Pennsylvania, 1975


Guilland, Harold F. Early American Folk Pottery, Philadelphia: Chilton Book Company, 1971, p. 243 (Index of American Design watercolor illustration, N.Y.C. Cer. 4, catalogued June 18, 1936)
American Radiance: The Ralph Esmerian Gift to the American Folk Art Museum, p. 143, fig. 106

Catalogue Note

The form of this early deep dish follows that of early-eighteenth century Swiss examples, retaining a rounded, stepped profile, wide outer flange, and overturned rim. Its maker, thought to be David Spinner, was the youngest son of Ulrich Spinner, who immigrated to Pennsylvania from Basel, Switzerland, in 1739 and settled on purchased land in Bucks County.1 Around 1776 or 1777, David was placed in apprenticeship by his father with Henry Neis, a cordwainer, and Johannes Neis, a potter, both in Milford Township, where he remained in their employ until inheriting his family's land in 1781. By 1782 Spinner was taxed independently as a successful potter and farmer. He owned more than two hundred acres and numerous livestock and had entered into local leadership and politics as a captain in the First Company Militia, justice of the peace, and tax collector for the township.2Like many industrious craftsmen working within the Pennsylvania German community, Spinner enjoyed a relatively comfortable lifestyle as a result of his hard work and talents, and he achieved the prosperous designation of "Esquire" during his later life.

The form and decorative embellishments of Spinner's earthenware productions clearly demonstrate his close association with the Neis family of potters and the conveyance of traditional styles through the established system of apprenticeship, Spinner's plates feature the same even-colored light-yellow slip ground layer and flourishes of copper oxide as seen on the early work of Johannes Neis, and both potters continued to produce the majority of their wares using the wheel rather than molds or forms. Based upon a comparison of a few rare signed examples, it is only in the details of Spinner's sgraffito carving of leafage, flowers, and vines that slight variations from those of the elder Neis can be observed. Spinner's open flowers are portrayed consistently with round centers, while Neis seems to have preferred a scallop-shaped center. Spinner's smaller leaves are simple, inverted comma shapes, a design seldom encountered on examples by Neis. And Spinner's use of curved lines flanked by rows of dots to portray the veining of leaves, or to suggest vines or feathered sprigs of foliage, is also his own interpretation. -J.L.L.

1 This plate was one of several collected by Edwin Atlee Barber, a pioneering scholar and curator at PMA who acquired numerous examples of Spinner's productions directly from the artist's descendants. An early paper label affixed to the back of this plate documents his ownership.
2 Additional, extensive genealogical information on Spinner and an in-depth analysis of his motifs as compared to those of Neis are in the research archives of the American Department, FMA.