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"Gemel"

1849-1882
Origin: America, Virginia, Strasburg
8" x 7" x 3 1/4" (20.3 cm. x 17.8 cm. x 8.3 cm.)
Earthenware, lead-glazed
Gift of William E. Wiltshire, III
Acc. No. 1979.900.7
Double bottle in form of two men standing side-by-side and joined shoulder to hipline. Figures hold mugs in right hands, with right arms bent to waist height. Left hands grasp fronts of open coats.
Label:Solomon Bell (1817-1882) was the third son of Peter Bell of Winchester, Virginia to follow in the family's pottery business. He worked first with his father and by 1837 he had joined his brother Samuel at the Strasburg pottery. There he managed production and quickly became known as the firm's chief potter. This rare example is one of only two known double bottle forms associated with Solomon. It is a molded piece, indicating that they were mass produced. The figures stand adjacent to each other and are dressed in coats, viests, and bow ties. The bottle stoppers, now missing, were hats.

These figures are likely based on English salt-glazed stoneware flasks made around 1840 that depict Souter Johnny, a character from the Robert Burns poem Tam O' Shanter. Souter translates as cobbler. The decision to join two figures together seems to be original to the Bell pottery, but the overall shape of the figures is identical to several known stoneware Souter Johnny flasks made in England.
Provenance:Unidentified owner, possibly Alexandria, Va.; Gene King, Monroe Center, Ill.; gift of William E. Wiltshire III, Richmond, Va.
Mark(s):"SOLOMON BELL/Strasburg Va." is impressed on the front and back of the lower portions of each figure and on the bottom of the proper left figure.