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[AC] Mead Art Museum at Amherst College; [HC] Hampshire College Art Gallery;
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Culture:English
Title:shaving bowl
Date Made:1700-1720
Type:Toilet Article
Materials:ceramic: tin-glazed earthenware decorated in cobalt blue
Place Made:United Kingdom; England; London (probably) or Bristol
Measurements:overall: 9 3/4 in.; 24.765 cm
Accession Number:  HD 2002.5
Credit Line:John W. and Christiana G.P. Batdorf Fund
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Description:
English delft barber's bowl or shaving bowl decorated in blue on the rim and interior with representations of barber's tools: scissors, towel, crossed lancets, mirror, three jars, sponge, skull and cross bones, and soap ball. Ceramic shaving bowls display a fairly consistent form: usually an oval or circular shape with a deep bowl and wide rim, often with a round depression for a soap ball, and a curved indentation for a man's throat. Two holes often pierce the footrim to facilitate hanging with a string or wire, or tying around a client’s neck. A ball of soap would be placed into the depression on the rim, and the barber would mix soap and water into a lather while the customer held the basin to his throat. James Eno (d.1682), a Windsor, Connecticut, barber, owned one of these elaborately decorated bowls. Also a similar bowl was said to have been brough from England by Hugh Montgomery and descended in the family of Abigail Montgomery Pitman (b. 1794) through her daughter Betsy Pitman Hoit (b. 1814) of Barnstead Parade, NH. Barber's bowls have also been associated with bloodletting, but there has been controversy about how frequently they were used to collect blood. Michael Archer in "Delftware" notes that Barber-Surgeons could let blood if required, and this function is reflected in their red and white barbers' poles. However, this dual role was already seen as out of date by the mid 1700s in England; R. Campbell's "The London Tradesman", published in 1747, reads: "I observed in the Chapter upon Surgery, that the Barbers and Surgeons were one Corporation. While they remained in that Situation they had some small Pretence to the Practice of Surgery but now they are separated, and become plain Barbers, I believe that ridiculous and dangerous Part of their Trade will be laid aside." The wide, upturned rim is decorated with two razors, two combs, and two crossed lancets (?); there in a curved neck indentation and a round sunken soap well encircled with a blue band. The applied footrim is pierced with two holes to hold a string or wire for hanging the bowl; some bowls have two holes pierced through the rim on the opposite side of the neck indentation, used to attach a cord that could be passed around the neck to hold the bowl in position during shaving. Dates on English delftware barber's basins depicting barber's implements range from 1681 through at least 1763. Many of these bowls must have been meant for private use in the home, but inscriptions identify a few as having been employed by professional barbers. One example is inscribed "Quarter Day Pray Gentleman Pay 1716" and others "Sir Youre Quarter is up." These inscriptions refer to a gentleman's quarterly payments of debts to his barber.

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