We were in Geelong last weekend, it’s the second largest city in Victoria and was nearly the state capital but missed out on account of the normal intrigue and nepotism that seems to accompany these things.
On Saturday we went with a friend, the Evil Andrea, to The Lorraine Rosenberg Ceramic Reference Collection and Library, upstairs in Moorabool Antique Galleries. On the floor in the third cabinet along was a ceramic copy of a leather jack. I’d heard of these but never hoped to see one in the Antipodes. The remarkable thing about them is how accurate the reproduction is. The stitching is clearly shown with the correct pitch, the handle shape is consistent with the age of the decoration and the angle at the back where the body meets the handle is beautifully figured. It is about the same size as the ones I’ve made (one for the aforementioned Evil Andrea’s husband, James) with a volume of about a quart so is likely to be a full-sized copy of whatever the original one was.
They are mould-made, so there’s a slight ridge running down the front, and another running down the handle where it looks like the two pieces of leather in the handle have been brought together.
The decoration is on what I would consider to be the sides rather than the front where it more usually appears on the leather examples. This may be artistic license to avoid the mould seam running through the incised design. The primary decoration is a crown over the initials CR (Carolus Rex) above the date 1646. Obviously a reference to king Charles I, the significance of the date eludes me unless it’s a seditious reference to Charles’ surrender at the end of the Civil Wars. The secondary decoration is an abstract symbol, possibly the maker’s mark.
On the base is the information about the pottery and the registration number for the design, making it post-date 1842 when the registration system came into force. Of course, Sodd’s Law applies and the number shown doesn’t match the registration mark standard. I wouldn’t be surprised if it were from 1846 but the letter G may indicate 1863 or if we ignore the letter and just look up the number, 1885.
The glaze is a deep brown rather than black, much closer to the colour an old jack fades to unless re-blackened, but may simply be due to the difficulty is producing a good, colourfast black on a low-firing clay such as earthenware until comparitively recently.
Thanks to Moorabool Antique Galleries for allowing me to photograph the jack and putting up with me carrying on like a madde person about it.