- 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.
- This jug, on the right, was made by Georgia potter Cheever Meaders (1887-1967) who produced a small number of face vessels. Although they were popular, Meaders felt that they were too much trouble to make. Meaders used pieces of broken, glazed plates for the eyes and teeth on this piece.
- Starting in the 1960s, a growing interest in southern face vessels as examples of 20th-century folk art prompted collectors, historians, and cultural institutions to seek out and encourage the potters who produce them. This piece was donated to the Smithsonian by Ralph Rinzler and his wife. Working for the Smithsonian's Office of Folklife Programs, Rinzler was instrumental in the rediscovery and popularization of face vessels.
- Currently not on view
- Object Name
- vessel, face
- date made
- ca 1967
- Meaders, Cheever
- place made
- United States: Georgia, White county
- Physical Description
- ceramic, stoneware, coarse (overall material)
- overall: 8 1/4 in x 6 15/16 in; 20.955 cm x 17.62125 cm
- ID Number
- accession number
- catalog number
- Credit Line
- Ralph and Kathryn Rinzler
- See more items in
- Cultural and Community Life: Ceramics and Glass
- Cultures & Communities
- Domestic Furnishings
- Face Vessels
- Data Source
- National Museum of American History
Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.