An Important Folk Art Ceramic Sculpture: The Terracotta Toddler

Circa: 1920
Size: 12" (w) x 15" (d) x 24" (h)
This figure is one of the most indelible images pictured in the folk art tome, American Vernacular. Found in an African American’s garden in Ohio, it is enigmatic and haunting.

The slightly larger than life-sized toddler sits upon a stool—his hands rested on his outstretched legs. The figure, decidedly a baby, however has a full set of teeth and a pronounced Adam’s apple beyond his years. Eyebrows and hair are scratched in.

The firing of the clay body has given the figure a burnt reddish-orange color—like a loaf of braided bread in a wood fired oven—or skin in the flickering light of a campfire.

This figure feels alive. His uncoordinated muscles are well rendered in the slightly off-balanced posture as is his minute head roll. The doughy build of his body and love-handles at his hips and buttocks gives us a sense of his weight.

The scale of the figure is surprising and not often seen in folk art ceramics. The terracotta medium and the stock paver form upon which the baby sits suggests that the builder worked at a commercial ceramic factory. The insight of building technique, proper drying time before firing and access to a sizable kiln would also support this theory.

Provenance: Robert Reeves, Ricco/Maresca, Marvill Collection

Pictured and discussed: The Clarion, Spring 1990; American Vernacular, page 165.


Condition: Excellent with expected wear from age and use.

Price: SOLD