Art Curatorial Exhibitions

Face Jugs—Art and Ritual

Face Jug, 1860-1880 Chipstone Foundation Photo by Jim Wildeman
Face Jug, 1860-1880. Chipstone Foundation. Photo by Jim Wildeman.

Last month I wrote about the Chipstone Foundation’s new acquisition, an early Edgefield face jug with writing on the back. Since then, our curatorial team has uncovered the meaning behind the elusive inscription. Before revealing this discovery, I’ll catch you up on new research for Face Jugs: Art and Ritual in 19th-Century South Carolina, on view until August 5 at the Milwaukee Art Museum.

“Face jugs” is a term created by art historians, historians and archeologists to refer to turned stoneware vessels with applied faces. The eyes and the teeth are made of kaolin, a white river clay that is one of the primary components of porcelain. You will notice when you visit the exhibition that there are also face cups and face pitchers.

Many different cultures have created pottery with faces or human elements, but the Edgefield face jugs are unique.

For starters, we know very little about them.