Isaac Broome’s Baseball Vase

Base-Ball Players vase, designed
and modeled by Isaac Broome
for Ott & Brewer

A year before the nation’s centennial, Joseph Ott and John Hart Brewer, proprietors of Ott & Brewer’s Etruria Pottery Works, engaged the services of sculptor Isaac Broome (1835-1922) to create a series of works in Parian bisque porcelain for the forthcoming exposition.

As The Pottery and Porcelain of the United States (Barber 1893) notes, “One of the most spirited designs of the series is the base-ball vase, which was suggested by Brewer and worked out by Broome. It is suggestive throughout, in all of its harmonious design, of the American national game. From a pedestal rises a gradually tapering vase, of which the lower portion is formed of a series of bats banded together by a strap, while the upper portion is embellished with figures of ball-players in low relief. The cover represents a base-ball, surmounted by the American eagle, and around the projecting ledge of the base are arranged three players [a pitcher, a striker, and a catcher] in life-like attitudes. The modelling is faultless and the figures are full of action.”

Broome created two identical Base-Ball Players vases for display at the Centennial Exhibition, which opened in Philadelphia on May 10, 1876. The pair was displayed in Ott & Brewer’s exhibit in the manufacturers’ ceramics area in the Main Exhibition Hall but within a month, owing to their popularity, one of the vases was moved to the Art Annex which was constructed adjacent to Memorial Hall to accommodate an overwhelming number of art submissions. This marked the first American ceramic work to be recognized not simply as a ceramic figure, but as a sculptural work of art.

Sometime afterward the first vase, now in the collection of the New Jersey State Museum, joined Brewer’s private collection; the second vase was given as a trophy to the Detroit Wolverines for their defeat of the St. Louis Browns in the 1887 World Series and is now in the collection of the Detroit Historical Museum.

Both vases have been reunited for the second time (the first being an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the 1980s) and are the centerpiece of New Jersey on Display: World’s Fairs and the Garden State, an exhibition at the New Jersey State Museum in Trenton that opened June 21 and runs through January 4, 2015.

Broome is interred in Section B, Lot 396.

Edited September 30, 2014.

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