20 Reasons To Love Americana, Part 3

"The Old World"

Our series spotlighting 20 fine examples of Americana that will be offered at the Winter Antiques Show January 19–29 at the Park Avenue Armory continues today with this look at a magnificent example of ceramics.

 In the strictest sense of the word, this massive christening bowl is not truly Americana; of the Jiaqing period, circa 1804, it was, however, made for the American market and recent research by London dealers Cohen & Cohen has uncovered its strong connections to early New York.

The Chinese Export bowl, measuring 22¼ inches in diameter with rare neoclassical borders in the inside, boasts two sepia panels depicting landscapes. One is a European scene apparently representing the “Old World” and the other, representing the “New World,” is believed to depict Farmers’ Free Bridge. That bridge, also known as Dyckman’s Bridge, was built in 1758 over the Spuyten Dyvil Creek in what is now the Bronx area of New York City. The few existing period images of the bridge show a remarkable similarity in bridge construction, as well as nearby buildings also pictured on the bowl.

“This extraordinary bowl is an important discovery, as it appears to depict a scene in Eighteenth Century New York,” according to the dealer’s catalog that describes this bowl. “Bowls of this size are often called christening bowls and the decorative style of this one suggests that it was made for the American market around 1800 and would have been a special commission for a family. A small number of other topographical bowls of this size and date are known, mostly for the American market. The two scenes at first appear unrelated but it has been suggested that they represent the ‘Old World’ and the ‘New World.’”

The panels at first inspection seem quite dissimilar but the attribution of New World and Old World makes sense. The European panel shows Dutch merchant ships and a stronghold of a town built on a cliff embodies typical Dutch or South German architecture and the male figures shown wear tricorn hats. The bridge scene amid a rural landscape, as much of Eighteenth Century New York looked back then, shows the wooden bridge over three stone piers with plantation-style buildings nearby.

The Farmers’ Free Bridge was built by John Palmer to avoid the steep tolls to cross King’s Bridge, which was previously the only access across the river to Manhattan’s livestock markets for farmers who lived in Westchester County. Crossing a shallow creek, bridge was rebuilt a number of times over the years, surviving until 1911, and is noteworthy as it was a pre-Revolutionary snub to the English King with The New York Gazette writing that it was “the first step towards Freedom in this state.” The site of the bridge is now 225th Street and Broadway.

"The New World"

For more information, contact Cohen & Cohen at 011 44 20 7727 7677 or www.cohenandcohen.co.uk. Make sure to visit the dealer’s booth at the Winter Antiques Show to see this and other fine ceramic works. For show information, www.winterantiquesshow.com or 212-987-0446.

–Andrea Valluzzo


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