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.
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