2015-10 Bowl with distinctive interpretation of “bird hanging from sky band” motif

Object ID:
2015-10

Artist:
Unknown

Culture:
Anglo, Hopi

Dimensions:
3.0” h X 12.25” w

A reader who is familiar with this catalog and has developed some confidence in my analysis of Hopi pottery should pause and reconsider. My first catalog entry for this pot labeled it a “Bowl with art-deco interpretation of bird hanging from sky band motif.”

Then I discovered new information.

It now seems that my art history was off by about 600 years.

An almost identical bowl (10.75” in diameter) bowl was excavated in August of 1901 by a Smithsonian Institution at the ancient village site of Kawaiokuh near Jeddito Springs, First Mesa (Hough, 1903:plate 98b).

Photographs of the ancient bowl excavated in 1901:

In the original catalog entry for 2015-10 I wrote that this bowl was “enigma” and noted:

“What is intriguing to me is the markedly Art Deco interpretation of the design and the unusual yellow color of some design elements.”

Apparently the ancient Kawaiokuh bowl had a similar effect on Walter Hough:

“A bowl, one of several, of salmon color…must be mentioned. The paste is dense and of the same fine character of the ware from this region; it is probable that to produce this (salmon) color either a little yellow ocher was added to the clay or the clay was selected for the purpose. In either case the bowls have the look of strangers amidst the fine ceramics of Kawaiokuh…Possibly the woman who made these bowls was following the traditions of the potters of her clan, which may not have been represented at Kawaiokkuh except by herself (Hough, 1903:342).”

At least Hough had the good sense to not identify the ancient bowl with Art Deco design, an expressive movement a decade in his future. As will be discussed below, the firing of bowl 2015-10 still seems odd, but the origin of the design and odd salmon color is now clear and ancient.

The design on bowl 2015-10 is a familiar format, originally Sikyatki but revived in the late 19th century by Nampeyo (1993-04) and used regularly since. (See “bird hanging from sky band” in the “Category” listing.)

The inside unpainted surfaces of the bowl shows a shadow-like small grid structure like that found on the shelves of some refrigerators. The same shadow grid pattern is seen clearly on the flat bottom of the bowl but not the curved outer wall. This pattern also does not wash off with acetone.

I don’t have a clear understanding of these marks. The bowl is not blushed, which would certify a traditional outdoor firing, but that is true of many Hopi pots that are well-protected from the flame during firing. The bowl “rings” when struck by a finger, but not at the pitch of a kiln-fired bowl and the sound is well within the range of other traditionally-fired Hopi bowls in the collection.

In short, I have no idea who made this bowl or when. Nevertheless, its unusual, sleek rendition of the “bird hanging from sky band” design is particularly attractive to my eye.

Purchase History:
Purchased with a telephone bid from Bunch Auctions, Chads Ford, PA (Receipt on file.) Judging from stickers on the bottom, bowl 2015-10 was offered by Skinner at their 5/13/06 auction, but was not sold.