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Vase, ca. 1905

Artist: Walter Benjamin Stephen, American, 1876-1961
Artist: Nellie Randall Stephen, American, 1857-1910
Manufacturer: Nonconnah Pottery, American (Capleville, Tennessee)

Medium: Earthenware; matte glaze with slip-painted decoration

11 1/4 × 6 7/8 × 6 7/8 in. (28.6 × 17.5 × 17.5 cm)

Credit Line: Gift of the Decorative Arts Trust

Object Number: 2013.1

On View

Private collection, Texas, 2004; (sale) Neal Auction Company, New Orleans, Louisiana, "Louisiana Purchase Auction," lot 897, October 1-3, 2004; Rodney Henderson Leftwich and Kim Fisher Leftwich, Mills River, North Carolina, 2013

Nellie Stephen often drew inspiration from the natural world, particularly the fields, creeks, and flowers of rural Tennessee. Here, using simple colored clay slips, she painted a wonderfully evocative image of the bridge over Nonconnah Creek near her home. The verses are by Walter Malone (1866-1915), who was  both  a  well-known poet and a judge in Memphis. His childhood home in north Mississippi lay directly across the state line from Capleville, and was adjacent to the Stephen family’s farm. Nonconnah Creek ran through both properties.

 

 

    Where green Nonconnah’s vineclad

       waters start

    The clay, I came from, slept in soulless

        earth

    O, may my potter’s fondest dream of art

    In this, my vessel, wake to happiest birth

  

    Walter Malone