In 1893, Americans marked the four-hundredth anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ “discovery” of America with the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. In addition to creating a huge demand for souvenirs, the fair sparked a wave of interest in American history. Capitalizing on this phenomenon, the Rowland & Marsellus Company, a New York importer, commissioned various potteries in Staffordshire, England to create ceramics embellished with historical scenes.
This pitcher is elaborately decorated with portraits of explorers such as Columbus and Hernando de Soto, as well as motifs based on famous paintings, showing moments of discovery. Among these is John Vanderlyn’s 1842 painting of the Landing of Columbus, a study for which is in this museum’s permanent collection.