National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Pennsylvania German Plate Pennsylvania German Plate
Rendered by Aaron Fastovsky (artist), c. 1940
watercolor, graphite, colored pencil, and pen and ink on paperboard
overall: 52.7 x 38 cm (20 3/4 x 14 15/16 in.) Original IAD Object: 1 7/8" High 12 1/4" Dia
Index of American Design
Not on View
From the Tour: Pennsylvania German Folk Art from the Index of American Design
Object 1 of 23

In the early days when every Pennsylvania German family had to farm for its livelihood, pottery was made by farmer-artisans skilled in that craft. Having brought these skills from the homeland, they were able to supplement the family income by supplying plates, dishes, and other ceramic articles to neighboring households. Because Pennsylvania earth was rich in red clay, potters produced redware -- pottery that turned a deep brownish red after firing. This plate, inscribed, "1793 H R," may have been made by the potter Henry Roudebush. The proudly strutting peacock and stylized flower are typical Pennsylvania German motifs. The plate is decorated by a technique know as sgraffito or "scratching." In this process the potter coated the concave surface of the plate with white slip -- a thin white clay. After it dried, the design was scratched into the white slip with a sharp instrument to expose the red clay underneath. A transparent glaze was applied and the piece was then fired. Because of their decorative nature, plates of this kind were commonly presented as gifts.

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