Pook Sells Mahantongo Painted Urn for $128,100

The Mahantongo Valley, Pennsylvania, turned and painted urn-shaped sugar bowl or spice cup and cover, dated 1861 and inscribed “Jared Stiely" [sic], illustrated on the cover of Pook and Pook’s May 4 catalog sold on the phone for $128,100 (with buyer’s premium) to Edwin Hild, partner with Patrick Bell of Olde Hope, New Hope, Pennsylvania. Hild said he bought it for a client.

“It is the finest of the group of these paint-decorated lidded turned urns by Jared Stiehly and decorated by his wife, Elizabeth Mayer Stiehly,” said Hild. “Jared was the son of the Reverend Isaac Stiehly, an itinerant minister to German Reformed churches in the Mahantongo Valley in the region adjoining Schuylkill and Northampton Counties, a stonecutter, millwright, and farmer. Elizabeth was the daughter of the cabinetmaker Johannes Mayer, who made Mahantongo chests. They made the largest and most lavishly decorated sugar urn for themselves.”

Most of these turned sugar urns, sometimes called spice cups, were made for the Stiehly family. This one, 9¼" high, is taller than the others, and its bulbous body is a departure from the more Neoclassical urn forms. Elizabeth Stiehly painted red and yellow flowers, a pear tree, and large strawberries on an ivory ground. It is in good condition—there is a small age crack on the pedestal.

It is not a record for the form. That record was set when a similar one, 7¾" tall, made for Jared Stiehly’s father, the Reverend Isaac Faust Stiehly, and dated May 1861 sold at the sale of the Ralph Esmerian collection at Sotheby’s on January 25, 2014, to Todd Prickett of C.L. Prickett for $245,000.

Another urn turned by Jared Stiehly and decorated by his wife, Elizabeth, is illustrated in Henry Reed’s book Decorated Furniture of the Mahantongo Valley, plate 23. A photograph on the same page in Reed’s book shows more of these urns from collection of George Horace Lorimer on a mantelpiece with redware—one is the Esmerian sale urn with the name “Isaac Stiehly” and date “1861,” and the other has the name “Lydia Stiehly,” the wife of Isaac’s son Paul.

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