Mystery of the mark on the cockerel head dish - 'J' over an unknown marking - a '7' OR 'F' OR upside-down 'L'
(Belfast, Northern Ireland)
J marking with a '7' OR 'F' OR upside-down 'L'
I am a retired librarian and a long-time collector. When I first got the collecting bug, it was for costume dolls and I built up quite a collection which I eventually donated to a charity auction. I have always collected books, something I have inherited from my father, and my bookshelves are still well filled.
Then along came my fascination with pottery. That fascination had probably been developing for quite a while, but I remember very clearly the moment when it sprang fully-formed out of my subconscious. I was on holiday in Edinburgh and when I was passing a shop in Edinburgh which sold all sorts of original things I spotted a display of pottery by a husband and wife team. I absolutely loved that pottery and had to have a piece of it. All I could afford at the time was a cup: I still have that cup today.
A number of items in my pottery collection have been gifts from friends and family and one of my favourites among these is a lovely bowl made by Jim Peckham of Georgia and given to me by my brother and his American wife who live in Georgia. However, most of the items in the collection I have bought in charity shops, jumble sales and car boot sales over the years.
After I retired I was able to devote more time to collecting and for a few years I turned my hobby into a business and sold vintage pottery and porcelain online. I enjoyed this a lot, but the business never quite made it into profit and eventually I gave it up and returned to being a hobby collector.
My particular interest is in Irish pottery and my collection is mostly composed of Irish items, but if I see something I really like I go for it, no matter where it has been made.
One of the aspects of collecting which I most enjoy is finding out as much as I can about my pieces: who made them, where they were made, how they were made. Over the years I have spent many fascinating
hours on the internet researching my pieces. Most I have been able to identify sooner or later, but there are a few which have defied all my efforts and that brings me to the Cockerel Head Dish.
I bought this dish several years ago in one of the charity shops I frequent. I can't remember how much I paid for it, but it was probably not very much. My eye was immediately caught by it: it was so colourful and different from anything else I had in my collection.
The Cockerel Head Dish is earthenware, with a pale grey, off-white underglaze and a blue overglaze. The primitive-style design of the cockerel-head, vase and flowers decoration is sgraffito-outlined and painted in orange, green, yellow, tan, red and blue. The cockerel head dominates and gives the dish real character.
There is one thing about the colouring in of the design that I find quite puzzling. Everything in and around the sgraffito outline is painted in quite carefully, with one exception: there are three blobs of quite thick, greenish slip on the left-hand side of the design which do not look to have been applied with the same care as the rest of the decoration. I wonder whether they were applied by someone other than the person who applied the rest of the decoration.
But for me, the real puzzle of this dish is the sgraffito backstamp. It is a mark consisting of a 'J' over another letter / number / symbol which I cannot decipher. Is it a '7', an 'F', an upside-down 'L' or something else?. Every so often I have trawled through the internet trying to find a match for that mark, but with no success. I have looked at hundreds of photos of pottery and considered many possible countries of origin for the dish, but I am no nearer to finding out anything about it.
Identifying this mark and finding out where this dish was made and by whom, has become something of an obsession with me. I am hoping that some kind member of the Forum will be able to solve the mystery.