This thin pitcher is beautifully-formed and cute. The creature on both sides is complex but questionably fearsome. It’s an attractive package.
The mouth of the pitcher is triangular with a flat upper surface. The body is largely circular and thin. Slightly thinner than the body, the handle has squared sides. The jar rests on a flat, oval base. No polishing striations can be seen; the surface simply glows. Variations in blushing attest to its outdoor firing.
Almost identical creatures are painted on the two sides of the pitcher. Only a 0.125-inch gap prevents them from forming complete circles. If uncurled they would be 4.1875 inches long; curled they are 2.1875 inches in diameter.
The design is largely monochromatic. The head sweeps back from a long snout. The mouth is closed. An unpainted dot represents the eye; two horn-like ears sweep back from the top of the head. A long, unpainted line begins near the snout to mid body, its far end marked by either 9 or 12 dots, depending on the rendition.
- Below these dots, off the belly of the beast, is a red L-shaped leg crosshatched by 3 X 4 black lines. A black foot with five fingers emerges from the ankle.
- Above the row of dots, on the back of the creature, is a curved red ribbon with pointed ends. At the point where the front edge of the ribbon touches the creature’s back, a cluster of four forward-pointing black lines emerges, feathers perhaps. A similar cluster of red lines emerges from the rear of the ribbon. These two designs are the only red elements on the pitcher.
About two-thirds of the way toward the tail, the body is bracketed by a set of detailed and identical design elements. Against the body is a squarish design beginning with a black hill with 3 or 4 parallel lines emerging from its apex (a “black gumdrop with whiskers”). At its base are three parallel lines forming a “two-lane highway.” Behind them is a solid black square, then a stippled square. From this base emerges a set of four short feathers. On the edge of this design furthest from the body is a set of long parallel lines. About two thirds of the length of these lines lies in front of the two-lane highway below, giving the lines an unbalanced look.
As the body of the creature extends toward the rear, it narrows so that the section squeezed between the bracketing designs is quite thin. From this narrow end sweep three 1.125-inch long tails. As the emerge they continue the curve of the body and fan out towards paddle-shaped tips.
The distinctive form of pitcher 2022-06 and its particular design characteristics interact to create a visual experience more powerful than one would expect from a miniature pot.
This pitcher is a study in geometric contrasts: the thinness of its form contrasts with its relatively wide sides; the flat upper surface, flat handle and flat base contrast with its round body and rounded edges. The triangular mouth adds another geometric shape to the mix. This variation makes the form of the pitcher particularly engaging.
Variation in the painted design is similarly attractive.
The two bundles of feathers sprouting from the ends of the red form on the creature’s back pull a viewer’s eyes in opposite directions. Similarly, the bundle of unbalanced lines on top of the bracketing designs near the tail encourage a viewer to look to the left. The large sweep of the nearby tail feathers encourage the viewer to look right, creating additional visual tension.
The creature has two areas of focus, 1) the red elements near the front of the body and 2) the detailed bracketing designs near the tail. These details compete for the viewer’s attention and thus make the overall design more complicated and interesting than would be the case with a simpler rendition.
In addition, of course, any representation of a creature is visually arresting.
That’s a lot going on in a design just over two inches in diameter. These details could be centrifugal, but they are made coherent by the fiercely circular form of the body, which focuses a viewer’s eyes.
By their nature miniatures are cute and attractive, particularly if their form incorporates the range of geometric shapes seen on pitcher 2022-06. By their nature, depictions of creatures are arresting, particularly if their detail of design are as complex as this example. Cute, attractive, arresting and complex, all on a pot about 2.5-inches tall. That’s a lot of visual power in a small space.