Face Vessel

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The tradition of shaping human likenesses on ceramic vessels is thousands of years old. Face vessels held different meanings in different cultures around the world. Some were probably used in burial rituals, others satirized the person whose features were captured in clay, and still others were made just for fun.
Southern potters rarely signed their face vessels before the 1920s, making attribution difficult. The maker of this face vessel, second from the left, is not known. It came to the Museum as part of the Van Alstyne Collection of American Folk Art. Eleanor and Mabel Van Alstyne collected more than 300 examples of American folk art over a period of about 40 years.
Currently not on view
date made
late 1800s-early 1900s
Date made
Late 19th and early 20th centuries
place made
United States
Associated Place
United States
Physical Description
ceramic, stoneware (overall material)
corncob (overall material)
wood (overall material)
overall: 11 cm x 14.7 cm; 4 5/16 in x 5 13/16 in
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
The Eleanor and Mabel Van Alstyne Collection of American Folk Art
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Ceramics and Glass
Cultures & Communities
Domestic Furnishings
Face Vessels
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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