Ceramics Page 11-3

Great Canadian Ceramics


3 - J Heath Ontario Lake Scenery Pitchers - c 1845-53

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Copyright Goldi Productions Ltd. 1996-1999-2005
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Absolutely fabulous, and very rare, is this 160 year old early Canadian Victorian pitcher, still in mint condition.

It features J Heath's controversial Lake Ontario scenery transfer from the late 1840s.

Of course it wasn't controversial in those days but modern housebound ceramic experts, hunched over their collections in their darkened museum cellars, dreamed up the controversy because they couldn't believe that there was life outside their curatorial crypts, that this scene, of waterfalls, mountains, a castle, or Indians in tipis, could actually exist, at the Hamilton, Ontario end of Lake Ontario.

Fake, pure fancy, it's all mythical, they pomposited...

To see the entire academic tempest in a teapot vapourized, once and for all:

Go to Royal Ontario Museum How Could You?

The J Heath Lake Ontario Scenery pattern is not really rare because it was astonishingly popular when it came out.

Why not? - modern academics withstanding - it gave Canadians for the first time, a dinner service with a recognizable scene of their own country that they could identify with.

Previously all they could get were plates with those infernal gaudy Japanese decorative flower things, or those Chinese bridges, birds, and weird trees, not to mention people in odd costumes. Or the old country scenes they had fled, for a better life in Canada...

Heath was on to something, and from then on, Canadian scenes began to be produced by other potters in the UK, specifically aimed at the Canadian taste for seeing their own country on their dinner services, when they sat down in the morning to eat their grits and gruel.

Pitcher, Lake Ontario Scenery - J Heath 1845-53
Orig. pitcher - Size - 21 cm
Found - Harrisburg, PA

While Heath's plates turn up fairly regularly - however ones in fine condition do not - pitchers are never encountered even in bad condition.

Which is why this specimen, in mint condition, is such a Great Canadian Treasure.

During the 19th century, Canada did not have potteries that could produce this kind of high end ceramic ware so all the Canadian scenes produced during the Victorian era were imported from the UK where they were made in the Staffordshire potteries.

The basic pitcher would have been pressed in a mould, with the handle attached in a separate operation.

The blue decoration and scene would have been applied with separate transfers - a wet ink image on paper - to let the colour set into the clay. The pitcher would then have been fired.

The handle looks fragile; after 150 years, even though it is still robust as ever, collectors never lift a pitcher by its handle, but always grasp it, firmly, with two hands, by the body.

Some handles have come off, and a priceless antique crashed to the floor into a thousand pieces.

Don't let this happen to you.

To avoid being targetted by a blood-curdling scream, in an antique shop, never lift a treasured antique pitcher, teapot, or loving cup by the handles...

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

The largest and most fabulous pitcher J Heath produced of the Dundurn Castle Ontario Lake Scenery pattern.

Gigantic and fabulous in form and all in near mint condition.

Not only hard to find after some 160 years... ; it is the only one we've ever seen...

This large size - a gigantic 31 cm, about as tall as pitchers ever get - was probably intended as a water pitcher for washing in a basin.

The handles are very indicative of those unique shapes favoured in the 1820s to 1850s and can often help date a pitcher of unknown vintage.

Because of its good condition it may have been just used as a decorative piece and so spared the knocks usually encountered around wash time.

Below, a smaller pitcher, also extremely hard to find, probably used for milk.

Pitcher, Lake Ontario Scenery - J Heath 1845-53
Orig. ceramic - Size - 31 cm
Found - Rochester, NY