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.
The earliest face vessels known to have been produced by white southern potters were probably not made until the end of the 1800s. White potters working in the Edgefield area in the mid-1800s may have seen the slave-made vessels and taken the idea with them as they moved out of South Carolina.
Like many southern pottery families, the Brown family encompasses a line of potters generations long. The Browns began making pottery in west-central Georgia by the mid-1800s before migrating east to the Atlanta area after the Civil War. The family spread from there to North and South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, and Texas. This face vessel, on the right, was made by one of many Brown family potters working in Georgia in the 1960s.
Currently not on view
date made
Date made
Mid-20th century
Brown Pottery
place made
United States: Georgia, Fulton county
United States: North Carolina, Arden
Physical Description
ceramic, stoneware (overall material)
ceramic, stoneware, coarse (overall material)
overall: 8 1/2 in x 5 7/16 in; 21.59 cm x 13.81125 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
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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