Friday, December 23, 2016


"Genuine Bears Grease/Yardley & Statham/Wholesale Perfumers" 2.5 inch pot lid, ca. 1851. 

I went on a bears grease binge recently.  I purchased five 19th century pot lids printed with bears grease advertising.  After the holidays, I plan to write about them.  However, now I am going to write about a lid I didn't buy.  Not that I didn't want it.  I noticed that the bear's head was covered in bees.  I knew that this bear, assaulted by bees, was actually the bear used to illustrate the Aesop's fable: "The Bear and the Bees."  Here is the fable (you can skip it, but the moral is quite good): "A Bear roaming the woods in search of berries happened on a fallen tree in which a swarm of Bees had stored their honey. The Bear began to nose around the log very carefully to find out if the Bees were at home. Just then one of the swarm came home from the clover field with a load of sweets. Guessing what the Bear was after, the Bee flew at him, stung him sharply and then disappeared into the hollow log. The Bear lost his temper in an instant, and sprang upon the log tooth and claw, to destroy the nest. But this only brought out the whole swarm. The poor Bear had to take to his heels, and he was able to save himself only by diving into a pool of water.  Moral: It is wiser to bear a single injury in silence than to provoke a thousand by flying into a rage."  I don't know why the bear and the bees image was used to advertise bears grease.  Usually, bears grease lids show just a generic bear or two.  Perhaps the  engraver who copied the image didn't know about the fable.  Or didn't care.

The image on the above lid was copied from Francis Barlow's 1687 illustration for a book of Aesop's Fables.  If you enlarge the image, you can read the late 17th century version of the fable.

Francis Barlow's 1687 illustration "The Bear and the Bee Hives."

I knew the bear on the lid was from an Aesop's fable because I entered two patterns in the Transferware Collectors Club Database of Patterns and Sources that show "The Bear and the Bee Hives."  Or, as sometimes known, "Bear and the Bees."
Bailey & Ball (1843-1850) "Bear And Bees" 7.5 inch child's plate.  It is copied from Francis Barlow's illustration "The  Bear and the Bee Hives." See above.

"The Bear And The Bee Hives" 4.75 inch child's plate, ca. 1830.  It is copied from Samuel Howitt's  "A New Work of Animals: Principally Designed from the Fables of Aesop, Gay and Phaedrus,"  ca. 1811.  See below.

"Bear and the beehives" from Samuel Howitt's  "A New Work of Animals: Principally Designed from the Fables of Aesop, Gay and Phaedrus,"  ca. 1811.

The fable is also found on some 19th century tiles.  Both are copied from Samuel Howitt's "A New Work of Animals." See the source print above.

Minton & Hollins & Co. (1868-1962) 6 by 6 inch 19th century tile that illustrates the Aesop's Fable "The Bear and the Bees."
Minton Hollins & Co (1868-1962) 6 by 6 inch 19th century tile "The Bear and the Bees."

When I received my pot lids, I asked the dealer what he knew about the bear and bees lid.  He said he knew the bear and bees pattern was from an Aesop's Fable.  Later, my husband found the pattern in Ronald Dales 1977 book, "The Price Guide to Black and White Pot-Lids."  The text reads: "Bear and Beehive picture on a small to medium lid from the forerunners of Yardley's c. 1860s." So, I didn't discover anything new.  However,  the pot lid did lead me to find some source prints.  Now I have to enter them into the TCC database!

One more thing.  Here's a photo of the lids that were the inspiration for this post.  The bears are quite nice, but rather generic.  Except for one.

Five Bears Grease Pot Lids.  I wonder if the pattern in the center top is also from a fable by Aesop?  I'll have to check.

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