2013-13 Cornmeal Bowl with Mouse-Like Creature

Object ID:
2013-13

Artist:
Annie Healing Nampeyo

Dimensions:
4.375” h X 5.188” w X 2.563” d

This pot is of ordinary cornmeal bowl shape and is of a form intended to be hung in a Hopi home to hold an offering to the rising sun. The pot was dung-fired with the rear gold-blushed, which indicates that it was exposed to a higher temperature than the paler front. The signature “A. Nampeyo” appears on the back, which indicates that it was made by Annie Healing Nampeyo, the “Old Lady’s” eldest daughter. The design is well painted and monochromatic—except for one red element. The design on the handle incorporates six small black triangles organized to create five unpainted triangles between them. The use of such intersecting triangles is similar to the more detailed design on bowl 1994-02 by Annie. Aside from being a signed Annie pot, the vessel is unusual because of the mouse-like creature painted upside down on the front of the bowl.

This creature appears on two other pots in the collection (2010-20 and 2010-29) and on the first of these pots is also painted upside down. The maker of pot 2010-20 is in dispute, but because of a number of factors I suggest it was made by a young Nellie Nampeyo, Annie’s middle sister. Of all the pots in this collection, only in these two cases is an animal painted with this orientation. Perhaps both bowls were painted by the same person, though the crude paining on 2010-20 makes me think this is not the case. Perhaps the upside down orientation had some particular meaning to Nampeyo’s daughters that required this positioning. I have no idea, but such patterns make the study of Hopi pottery both interesting and problematic.

The linework on this pot is high quality and reflects Annie’s mastery of the art. Unlike her mother, Annie does not seem to have used color to integrate her designs. Only the tail of the creature on pot 2013-13 is red. While this adds interest to the design, being just one spot it does not integrate elements of the painting. Bowl 2009-04 in the collection by Annie shows the same pattern.

Purchase History:
Purchased on 5/21/13 on eBay from Tina Howard of Lancaster, CA. [Receipt on file.] She had purchased it about seven months earlier: “All I can tell you about this piece is I bought a storage unit (in Mojave, CA) and it was full of pottery, WWI items and some other misc. items. I do not know who owned it originally. I just learned about pottery recently.”

There was a good deal of interest in this pot; three other bidders placed 22 bids before the closing at 12:44 a.m. Because the design had an unusual orientation, I asked Frances Trahan Montgomery of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston to make a stand that would display the mouse creature feet down.