2012-02 Black on Cream Bowl with Flared Rim, Kayenta Design

Object ID:

Nampeyo 1 (unsigned)

Formed ca. 1895-1901, this bowl has an unusual form, an unusual slip, and an unusual design.

When I purchased bowl 2012-02 I was familiar with the ca. 1900 Matteson photograph of a similar bowl (discussed below), but had never seen such a pot or even a modern photograph of such a pot. Several months later, Wade and Cooke (2012) published a book based on the Cooke collection and I discovered a very similar bowl in that collection.  Since then I have discovered a third example in the collection of The Arizona State Museum, Tuscon (catalog #CPO4741), though this example is labeled “potter unknown.”  (Photograph on file.)

Ed Wade’s discussion of the Cooke bowl is far more sophisticated than mine, so first I will discuss my understanding of bowl 2012-02 and then, ending on a high point, summarize Wade’s comments.

First, I will discuss the bowl 2012-02’s form and design, then I will discuss the significance of bowl 2012-02 in this collection and in the development of Nampeyo’s aesthetic style. I will then test my conclusions against the small known sample of Nampeyo revival pots with Pueblo III designs.

Other than the bowl in the Cooke collection, I know of no other Hopi or Hopi-Tewa bowl with either the flared rim or the slight “foot” that characterize this pot; both are more Anglo than Native. A typical Hopi-Tewa food bowl is relatively deeper than this bowl and has a “helmet” shape. (See bowl 1996-04.) The shape of 2012-02 looks more like a side dish or cereal bowl produced by Wedgewood. Perhaps the Anglo shape was designed to appeal to the tourist market in the 1890s. After purchase, small hole was drilled through the rim of 2012-02, presumably to hang it by a string on a wall.

Polacca ware (ca. 1700 to 1900) is characterized by a crazed white slip. (See 1994-14 and other “Polacca” entries in the Index of Categories.) Like Polacca ware, bowl 2012-02 is slipped with white kaolin clay, though (unlike most Polacca ware) the slip has not crackled. This same kaolin uncrackled slip is shared with another early Nampeyo bowl in the collection, 1993-04.

The design on 2012-02 is neither Polacca nor Sikyatki inspired. Rather, the design of bowl 2012-02 seems to reflect Pueblo II (1150 CE to 1300 CE) pottery, perhaps more specifically Kayenta black-on-white ware (1260 CE to 1300 CE). Pots made during these periods are characterized by fine hatching lines, often painted over solid white backgrounds. “Negative motifs, especially circular and rectangular scrolls, and the characteristic “mosquito bar” (fine) cross-hatching, are defined by the fine painted linework” of Kayenta ware, writes Ed Wade (1980:23). More recently Wade has written:

“(Thomas) Keam commented on Nampeyo’s artistic inquisitiveness and employment of designs taken from ancient Black on white ceramics. A photograph taken of his storeroom around 1900 by A.C. Vroman shows a large cylindrical vessel decorated with precise geometric designs reminiscent of 13th Century Kayenta pottery motifs. The jar was documented by Keam as having been the work of Nampeyo and is now housed in the collection of the Thomas Burke Museum in Seattle, Washington”

The Vroman photograph to which Wade referred is found in Ashton (1976:32), though he dates it as having been taken ca. 1897. Bowl 2012-02 carries a design of the same style as the jar now in the Burke Museum.

In trying to describe the design on 2012-02, a picture is truly worth a thousand words, but I will give it a verbal try. To my knowledge, no other Nampeyo pot has a linear design as complex as that on 2012-02 and its sister pot in the Cooke collection.

Painted on the flared lip between the black rim and the thick framing line are eight concentric circles in a space only an inch wide. The distance between the eight circles varies a bit, but nowhere do any of the circles touch. Drawn around the rim of the bowl are 37 triangles with their bases built on the outer edge and their apexes resting on the 7th circle from the rim. Dividing a circle into four quadrants or multiples of four (4, 8, 16, or 32) is relatively simple. Dividing the rim into 37 equal segments is extraordinarily difficult and is the mark of a master craftsman. Within each of the 37 triangles are five to seven lines perpendicular to the circles, thus creating a set of crosshatches within each triangle.

Below this rim design is a thick framing line over a thin framing line. On the inside bottom of the bowl is a thin framing line over a thick framing line, which forms an empty central circle four inches n diameter. Between these two sets of framing lines are three different motifs organized around the central circle. .

The first motif is composed of four bands of lines and triangles about an inch wide that divide the inside layout of the bowl into four quadrants. Each of these four designs is formed by thick parallel lines that run between the thin framing lines on the rim and center of the bowl. These thick lines enclose nine parallel thin lines (in one case eight thin lines). The fifth of these thin lines forms the base of small triangles that alternate direction and whose apexes touch the outer-most thin line. Twelve to 14 small triangles are drawn in each of the four repetitions of this design. Most of these triangles are isosceles, but the first and last in the series are the equivalent of an isosceles triangle cut in half.

In all four renditions, the half triangle closest to the rim pointed in a clockwise direction while the half triangle closest to the center of the bowl is oriented in a counter-clockwise direction. The triangles in this design element seem to have been painted from the center of the bowl toward the edge, judging from one case where the outermost clockwise half triangle was so squeezed for space as to almost be un-noticed. Of the hundreds of design elements that make up the interior and exterior designs on this bowl, this small, squeezed, and misshaped triangle is the only painting “error.”

The two remaining motifs in the interior of the bowl are made up of large crooks organized into two pairs with each pair posed on opposite sides of the central open circle. Though all four images have an overall triangular shape, they are constructed quite differently.

The second of the three motifs on the interior is a solid black crook with six sides composed of a series of solid black triangles. The six sides are joined by corner triangles: the first side is formed by six triangles in a row, the second side is formed with three triangles in a row, the third side is composed of only one triangle. The remaining three sides (the end of the crook) are composed of only corner triangles. The first turn in the crook is at an angle of about 35 degrees; the remaining four turns are all at 90 degrees. The two renditions of this pattern are oriented so that the 35-degree turn on one points to the right while the other points left.

The third interior motif has the same overall shape as the second motif: a crook of six sides with multiple angles, the first about 35 degrees and the remaining 90 degrees turns. Fairly thick black lines form the outer border of the design. Internal to these framing lines inside the two longest sides of the crook are from three to six thin lines parallel to the thick framing lines. Crossing these thin lines are other lines forming an overall cross-hatching design that reflects the cross hatching in the rim triangles. Similar cross-hatching fills the rest of the interior of this third interior design. As with the triangle crooks of motif #2, the crosshatched crooks in motif #3 are oriented in opposite directions.

It’s all very symmetrical except….

There is one additional interior element that throws the interior design off symmetry.

Both crosshatched crooks grow out of one of the thick black lines that form part of the first motif discussed above. One of these crooks has two additional thick black lines that parallel the two longest sides of the design and join with the first black line to form a triangle that surrounds the crook. The second crosshatched crook lacks this surrounding triangle and stands alone in its space. The potential significance of this unbalancing element is discussed below.

The exterior of the bowl is decorated with a band of two designs, each repeated eight times.

Central to the exterior design are rectangles formed by seven to nine thin vertical lines and 13 to 17 thin horizontal lines. Each of these rectangles is bracketed by heavy black elements in the form of parentheses. Linking these parenthetical elements are two horizontal lines as thick as the parentheses and emerging from them. These are joined by a somewhat thinner V-shaped element, thus forming an early version of Nampeyo’s “clown face”:

“Nampeyo whimsically tucked variations of the clown face into many designs throughout her career (Kramer, 1996:188).” According to Martha Struever (see appraisal below), this V-shaped element is a motif found on ancient ware from Sikyatki.

This pattern of rectangles, parentheses, and clown faces is repeated in a chain around the exterior of 2012-02. The eight clown face elements vary considerably in width in sets of three. Starting with the clown face immediately to the left of the hole in the rim, the first set of three and the next set of three each have one thin, one medium and one wide “V” elements in random order. The final two clown faces are thin and medium in width. Thus, the external design has three thin, three medium and two wide “V” elements. No “V” element has a neighbor that is the same width as it is. The significance of this pattern is discussed below.

The triangle of the clown faces, of course, reflects the many triangular motifs on both the interior rim and the interior of the bowl. The crosshatched rectangles on the exterior of the bowl similarly mirror the crosshatching on the rim and interior of the bowl. In short, the overall design of bowl 2012-02 is carefully rendered and well integrated.

Born about 1860, Nampeyo’s ceramic career stretched over 60 years (about 1880-1942). Kramer (1996:167-177) divides this span into five periods. Period 1 (pre-1900) is not well documented: “Few photographs and vessels from this period are extant, but it can be deduced that Nampeyo had not yet found her personal style” (1996:177). After 1900, Nampeyo increasingly used curvilinear and avian designs on her pottery, a style commonly called “Sikyatki Revival” style. (For a critique of the term “Sikyatki Revival,” see Kramer: 1996, 160).

Bowl 2012-02 was fabricated during Kramer’s Period 1. Given the early date of bowl 2012-02, how well does its design foreshadow the style used by Nampeyo later in career, the style that made her famous?

Superficially, there is little resemblance between the design on bowl 2012-02 and her Sikyatki Revival style. The intricate and somewhat static design on bowl 2012-02 contrasts sharply with the designs for which Nampeyo later became famous. Compare, for example, the detailed, constrained design on bowl 2012-02 with the classic Nampeyo “eagle-tail” design on pot 2005-16, made about five to 10 years later. At first glance, the designs seem entirely different. Nevertheless, an analysis of the design on 2012-02 calls into question this first impression.

In Appendices “B” and “C” I defined six characteristics of Nampeyo’s mature Sikyatki Revival style using bowls 1993-04 and 2005-16 as benchmarks:

1) A tension between linear and curvilinear elements often represented as a contrast between heavy and delicate elements;
2) A deliberate asymmetry of design;
3) The use of color to integrate design elements;
4) The use of empty (negative) space to frame the painted image;
5) The use of a thick above a thin framing line on the interior rim of her bowls;
6) Nampeyo’s painting is confident, bold, and somewhat impulsive compared to the more-studied, plotted and careful style of her daughters, descendents and other Hopi and Hopi-Tewa potters.

When these criteria are applied to bowl 2012-02, the results are surprising:

1) On the interior, there is a tension between the circular lines in the design (on the rim and in the center) and the triangular elements that, in various formats, populate the design. On the exterior of the bowl, there is a similar tension between the delicate linear crosshatched rectangles, the linear “V” shaped clown faces and the heavier curved “parentheses” that frame the clown faces.

2) As detailed above, the interior design of bowl 2012-02 is strikingly balanced, which gives the bowl a somewhat static feeling. Nevertheless, the black triangle surrounding one of the crosshatched crooks is not duplicated around the other three crook images on the bowl, thus deliberately throwing the interior design out of balance. More subtly, the exterior design repeats the same sequence of elements eight times around the bowl, but the width of the “V” forming the clown faces seems deliberately varied. Had this variance been unintentional, one would expect the “V” motif to be a consistent width, with perhaps the last one or two V elements narrower as Nampeyo discovered she was running out of room. This is not the case. The variance in width is deliberate.

3) Since the bowl is monochromatic, Nampeyo’s use of color in this design is not an issue.

4) On the “classic” Nampeyo pot, the use of negative space to frame the design is clear and dramatic (see 2005-16). To a more moderate degree, space is left around the four internal crook designs on bowl 2012, thus highlighting these design elements. This is particularly true of the two crooks formed by solid-black triangles. On the exterior of the bowl, considerable empty space is left around the elements between the crosshatched rectangles, thus highlighting these motifs.

5) The thick-above-thin framing lines are clear on bowl 2012-02, both on the rim between the lip and the bowl interior and framing the circular area in the center of the interior.

6) On the “classic” Sikyatki Revival Nampeyo bowl her painting is “confident, bold and somewhat impulsive.” While the complex painting on bowl 2012-02 is done with great precision by a potter who could be described as “confident” (there appears to be no over-painting of brush strokes), the design is not at all “bold or impulsive.” The phrase “tightly controlled” would better describe the decoration. Of the hundreds of brush strokes necessary to paint the design, only one (the meager triangle that finishes off one of the legs of the design that divides the interior into quadrants) seems out-of-pattern or unplanned. The design on bowl 2012-02 is neither “bold” nor “impulsive.” Thus on this one dimension, Nampeyo’s painting of 2012-02 is clearly at variance with her later “classic” style.

In short, although the design on bowl 2012-02 looks strikingly different than the classic Nampeyo design, on four of the five dimensions that apply, Nampeyo displays the aesthetic sensibilities that later made her famous.

As Barbara Kramer notes (1996:160), “Shapes and designs borrowed from Sikyatki ware constituted only one of many prehistoric periods incorporated by (Nampeyo).” There are now four pots in this collection by Nampeyo dating from 1900 or earlier (1993-04, 2009-08, 2009-17, and 2012-02). Each bowl represents a different tradition of ceramic decoration. This is a small and certainly not a random sample of her early pottery, but some stylistic patterns are discernable among these four pots and these patterns suggest the process whereby Nampeyo developed her mature style. The Cooke collection seems specifically designed to offer a larger and more complete sample of pre-1900 Nampeyo pottery (Wade and Cooke 2012).

Piki bowl 2009-17 is the most traditional of the designs on the four pots in this collection since it uses the Polik Mana image on the interior of the bowl, a Polacca ware convention. As detailed in the catalog description, only two of Nampeyo’s six design strategies are clearly displayed on this pot (asymmetry and using color to integrate the design). There are only hints of linear/curvilinear tension in the design and while confidently drawn, the design is not particularly bold or impulsive. The bowl lacks framing lines and the design completely fills the interior, leaving no negative space to frame the design.

As noted above, the black-on-cream Kayenta design on bowl 2012-02 looks radically different than the typical “Sikyatki Revival” design of Nampeyo’s later years, but the design nevertheless incorporates four of her five relevant design strategies. Most significantly, the Kayenta-derived design is strikingly more static and detailed and less bold and impulsive than her Sikyatki Revival designs.

With small bowl 2009-08 Nampeyo is experimenting, looking for her own style. Again Nampeyo turns for inspiration to earlier indigenous designs. The bowl adopts from rock art the image of a foot as the central design motif. As detailed in the catalog entry for the bowl, all of the relevant design strategies that define Nampeyo’s mature style are incorporated into this bowl. (Excepting only “use of color to integrate the design,” since the pot is monochromatic.)

Finally, bowl 1993-04 fully captures the spirit of a much older Sikyatki bowl and –like the older bowl—fully incorporates the six design strategies that typified Nampeyo’s best-know work, (See Appendix B for a full discussion of this relationship.)

In short:
Bowl 2009-17: This Polacca-style bowl incorporates few of her later design strategies.
Bowl 2012-02: This Kayenta inspired bowl lacks only one relevant design strategy: bold and impulsive painting.
Bowl 2009-08: Inspired by rock art, this bowl contains all of the relevant design strategies.
Bowl 1993-04: This Sikyatki-inspired bowl contains all of Nampeyo’s iconic design strategies, as does the ancient bowl on which it was modeled.

So, what can this pattern tell us about the development of Nampeyo’s aesthetic?

Since bowl 2012-02 contains almost all of the iconic design techniques found in Nampeyo’s mature style, why did she not continue to produce substantial numbers of pots with its Kayenta (Pueblo III) design? The drawing on bowl 2012-02 is a masterful “eye dazzler.” Why did such designs prove to be a dead end in her aesthetic development?

Sometime between 1895 and 1901, Sumner Matteson took a photograph of Nampeyo and Annie with a collection of their pottery. In the foreground of this photograph is either bowl 2012-02 or a bowl very much like it. This photograph is discussed in some detail, below. Sufficient here is Barbara Kramer’s comment about the pottery depicted in the image:

“It documents atypical vase-shaped jars and large open bowls made by Nampeyo during the late 1890s. Designs painted on them were more static and vessel shapes less graceful than her later ones” (1996:167-168).

I agree. The Kayenta design on 2012-02 lacks a critical design strategy: The design is neither bold nor impulsive. Instead, it is careful, formal, detailed and static. There is simply no room in the design for bold or impulsive drawing because lines that did not fit the tightly controlled pattern would ruin the overall design. Like Sherlock’s “dog that did not bark,” it is this lack of impulsive and bold painting that makes bowl 2012-02 a particularly important pot; the bowl illuminates the design choices that Nampeyo made as her career developed.

Why did Nampeyo not incorporate Kayenta-inspired designs into her mature style?

Bowl 2012-02 suggests three reasons:
First, Nampeyo adopted the bold and energized designs suggested by Sikyatki traditions because they were more attractive to Anglo buyers than the more static Kayenta designs.

Second, bowl the decoration on bowl 2012-02 completely covers the visible surface of the bowl and is painted with such closely packed detail of design that it required hundreds of detailed strokes with a yucca brush. Such a dense design must have taken many hours to paint. Over her 40-year career as a designer (about 1880 to 1920), Nampeyo was largely in the business of producing pottery for the Anglo market. Had she continued to draw Kayenta derived designs like 2012-02, she would have had a limited output given the time investment in each rendition. Nampeyo’s Sikyatki Revival style is painted with larger design elements requiring fewer brush strokes. By focusing on the Sikyatki derived designs (cf. 1993-04, 2005-16, and 2011-16), Nampeyo was able to produce the volume of pottery necessary to support her family. As Wade points out, however, a variety of Kayenta-inspired motifs were retained by Nampeyo and incorporated into her later Sikyatki Revival style of pottery (2012:131). Most notably in terms of bowl 2012-02, the “musical notation” bars that are the central design element of this bowl are regularly found on her yellowware bowls. (Photographs on file.) When used on these later Sikyatki Revival bowls, however, such designs are an accent, in contrast to their predominance on 2012-02.

Finally, I suggest that Nampeyo did not pursue Kayenta derived designs because of problems with her vision. We know that Nampeyo developed trachoma in her eyes as early as the 1890s, about when bowl 2012-02 was painted (Kramer 1996:69-70). The progressive loss of eyesight in subsequent years would have made renditions of detailed Kayenta designs difficult and then impossible. By about 1920, Nampeyo had serious difficulty painting even her bold Sikyatki Revival designs (Ashton 1976:33, and Judd 1951). Had she persisted in using detailed Kayenta-derived designs, her incapacity to paint would have begun much earlier.

These conclusions can be tested against the small sample of similar Nampeyo pots.

Before the publication of the Cooke collection (Wade and Cooke 2012), there was scant discussion in the literature of early (pre-1900) Nampeyo pottery. The discussion that follows is based on this meager evidence. Far more robust is Wade’s discussion of the early years of Nampeyo (2012:126-135) and his review of the relevant Nampeyo pots in the Cooke collection (#29 — #38 especially). At times Wade and I discuss the same pots, but his review draws on a much wider range of examples than are available to me.

Other than pottery discussed in Wade and Cooke (2012), I can find only eight published images of Nampeyo jars that employ designs that are derived from ancient ware other than Sikyatki. (I omit the Cooke bowl similar to 2012-02 because, while there are differences between the two bowls, they have essentially the same design.) While all the major published discussions of Nampeyo assert that Sikyatki was not the sole inspiration for her work, published photographs of pots drawing their inspiration from other traditions are rare. The best documented is a very large black-on-cream jar collected by J.W. Fewkes from Thomas Keam on October 2, 1896 for the Bureau of American Ethnology and now in the Smithsonian.
(See http://collections.si.edu/search/results.jsp?tag.cstype=all&q.op=OR&q=nampeyo&start=40. Scroll down to the pot, catalog#E158143-0 for a detailed image. A clear image of this pot is also published in Struever 2001:30. For a smaller photograph, see Blair 1999:43.)

Although the design on the Smithsonian pot is on a much larger scale than 2012-02, triangular motifs form a major part of the iconography, as on the bowl in this collection. The design on the Smithsonian jar is quite complex though not as complex as on bowl 2012-02, especially given the relatively large size of this jar compared to the small size of the bowl.

Other then Ed Wade’s comments about the Cooke collection pots, the only substantive discussion of Nampeyo jars with non-Sikyatki designs is found in an article by Robert Ashton, Jr. in American Indian Art magazine during its first year of publication (1976). “Documentation of pottery made by Nampeyo…prior to 1895 is limited,” Ashton notes, but then illustrates and discusses three pairs of pots (six pots total) that are both early and were inspired by prehistoric designs that are not Sikyatki (1976:28-29, 32-33). Of the first pair, one was collected in 1888 and the “design is black on yellow and is a Pueblo III motif.” (Like bowl 2012-02). The second pot in this first pair was collected from Nampeyo in the about 1900 and has a similar design, thus suggesting that the 1888 pot was also by Nampeyo. The design on their first pot is more intricate than the second, but both incorporate a cursive rendition of crooks and the design covers most of the available surface on both pots (1976: 28-29 and 32). We do not know when the second pot was made. If it was new when purchased, there may be a difference in production dates of 12 years between these pots. This is a greater time span than is usually suggested for Nampeyo “Revival” pots that do not draw from the Sikyatki tradition. The second pot in this pair is now in the Benton collection in Chicago (Cusick 1984: plate 13). Of the six pots discussed by Ashton, this design of first pot in this pair seems most like bowl 2012-02. Both designs are crowded and busy, though the design on bowl 2012-02 is still more detailed and complex, especially given the small size of the bowl on which it is painted.

The second pair of pots is shown in an 1897 photograph of Thomas Keam’s “Curio Room.“ The pots are tall, narrow jars that seem to be encircled by three bands of cursive design. Ashton cites the pair as being in the Thomas Burke Memorial, Washington State Museum in Seattle, though I am unable to locate them with an online search (1976:32). The design seems somewhat similar to the first pair but only cover about half the available surface, though this is difficult to determine from a magazine printing of a 100+ year-old photograph.

The final pair of pots cited by Ashton is in a Summer Matteson photograph of Nampeyo and Annie sitting with a selection of their pots. The photograph is widely reprinted (see Kramer 1996:75) but the largest format reprint is in Wade and Cooke (2012:148).

Framing the two potters in this photograph are tall vessels, roughly similar in overall shape to the second pair. The design on these two pots seems much simpler that the designs on the earlier two pairs and incorporate a four-tail-feather motif and an eagle tail design that seem Sikyatki-derived to me. Nevertheless, Ashton concludes that this third pair “are of an unusual shape and design for Hopi vessels of this period leading to the conclusion that perhaps Nampeyo was influenced by many cultures, not just Hopi” (1976:33). While the shape is unusual for Hopi, I’m not convinced that the design on these pots supports his conclusion. In any case, the design on these two pots has little visual relationship to bowl 2012-02.

Finally, the Marjorie and Charles Benton collection contains a large jar that is “attributed to Nampeyo” and is dated 1914, and is thus about two decades younger than the seven pots discussed above. (Cusick 1984: plate 15, and Dittert & Plog 1980:32). Nevertheless, photographed here in black and white, the complex design does not seem Sikyatki derived and includes triangular motifs and a complex overall pattern. Judging from these photographs, the design has the same aesthetic sensibility as the design on bowl 2012-02. Several months after I reached this conclusion, Lyn A. Fox published an ad in Indian Art Magazine (Spring 2013:76) that for the first time published a photograph of this jar in color. I had not realized that the jar is polychromatic, including substantial red paint. The addition of color lessens the similarity to bowl 2012-02, but the complex line work on the Benton jar still retains a similarity to bowl 2012-02 in this collection.

Of the eight pots in this small sample, the jar cited by Aston as collected in 1888 has a design that is intricate, almost completely covers the pot surface and thus seem most like the design on bowl 2012-02. Only somewhat less intricate is the design on the 1896 Smithsonian jar, which also covers the entire available surface. The painting of these three jars would have been time consuming and support my conclusion that Nampeyo did not pursue Kayenta and Pueblo III motifs because they were too time-consuming to paint and her declining eyesight would have precluded such intricate designs. The five remaining jars in the sample either have a simpler designs or have large portions of their surface unpainted, thus being quicker to design. These five jars thus do not support my thesis that Nampeyo did not pursue Kayenta-derived designs because they were too complex to paint quickly.

Note that jar 2018-10 by Nathan Begaye displays an eight-pointed monochromatic star pattern that is even more intricate than the pattern on Nampeyo’s bowl 2012-02.  Although these two pots were made about 120 years apart, they both seem to be “see-what-I-can-do” pots where the artists are pushing the detail of their painting to the limit.

Whatever the reasons, Nampeyo produced only a limited number of Kayenta and Pueblo III designed pots. Within this group bowl 2012-02 carries the most complex design, especially given the small size of the bowl. This gives the bowl has substantial visual appeal, but the motif was an aesthetic dead end for The Old Lady.

Purchased on 2/1/12 from Martha Struever of Santa Fe, NM.  She produced a U-Tube video to advertise this bowl, and that video can be found here:

Few pots have such a clear Nampeyo provenance as does bowl 2012-02.

In her appraisal of bowl 2012-02, Marti wrote in part:

“Date of origin: 1890 – 1900…. The jar has extensive use of parallel lines interrupted by triangular devices. This design layout was used by the renowned potter Nampeyo of Hano as she interpreted the designs on early Kayenta black on cream wares. The motifs have been called “Medieval Music” as they look like bars of music. The bowl has a series of painted designs on the exterior walls with V-shaped motifs like those that appear on pre-Hopi wares from Sikyatki. A very similar bowl is illustrated in (Kramer, 1996:75)… in a photo by Summer W. Matteson…The bowl illustrated in the Matteson image is in the foreground of that photograph. It could possibly be the same bowl (as 2012-02), that later (after the photo was taken) had exterior painting added. The interior design appears to be the same on both pieces….” [Full appraisal on file.]

Having reprinted the Matteson photograph, Kramer (1996:210, #8) adds an interesting footnote that bears directly on the origin of bowl 2012-02. The photograph was originally published in a book about Matteson. The photograph “was presumptively dated 1901 by the authors,” Kramer writes:

“When I asked two members of Nampeyo’s family to compare Matteson’s photograph with those known to have been taken in 1901 by A.C. Vorman (pp. 72, 74 and 79—81 in Kramer; Fig. 2.18 in the Blairs, 1999:76 and on file with the collection), both said that Matteson’s was taken several years earlier, that Annie was much younger in Matteson’s photograph. I discussed their assertions with co-author (of the book of Matteson photographs) Bourns who said that Matteson may have taken the photograph between 1895 and 1899, a period during which Bourns cannot account for Matteson’s travels. If, during further research, he finds that Matteson visited First Mesa before 1900, the photograph will be the earliest to picture jars made by Nampeyo.”

(In other references, Kramer noted that the earliest photographs of Nampeyo with an example of her pottery were taken by James Mooney in 1893 (1996:48-49 and 167). The Mooney photographs show Nampeyo forming a pot and painting a bowl with the same design as 1993-04 by Nampeyo in this collection. Matteson’s photograph, I gather, may be the earliest to show Nampeyo with a collection of her finished pots.)

Thus, bowl 2012-02 was made in the years 1895-1901 and is either the same pot shown in the Matteson photograph or a close sibling. In either case, it is one of the earliest pots with photographic documentation as by Nampeyo.

The very similar bowl in the Cooke collection (#34) (Wade and Cooke 2012:146-149) is described by Wade:

“[Nampeyo’s] aesthetic versatility was so broad that sometimes her best pieces have been confused with the work of other potters or even other pueblo traditions. This Prehistoric Revival bowl is a case in point… it just doesn’t look Hopi. (Such pots) are quite rare…The design on this pot has nothing to do with the late 14th-century Sikyatki tradition but is a loose interpretation of a number of prehistoric black on white ceramics including Tusayan. The composition…is an offset radial layout with a fourfold subdivision, a style that was abandoned by Sikyatki and later potters…. The banded subdivides interspersed internally with black positive and striped negative triangles (on the interior of this bowl and 2012-01)…is (also) seen on the outflaring lip of the bowl. The design unit is not of Hopi origin but common to late 19th and early 20th century Keresan pottery from Acoma, Santo Domingo and Cochiti. Where Nampeyo was exposed to the design remains a mystery. The triangular serrated fret on the outside and inside of the bowl was favored by Nampeyo up until 1900 when it was displaced by more curvilinear motifs; however the deep basin shape with an outflaring lip is unusual for the potter” (2012:146-149).

Now displayed at the Museum of the West in Scottsdale, the Cooke bowl is dated as being made c. 1895-1900.  Ed Wade’s label reads in part:

“It has been difficult for collectors and scholars alike to grasp the phenomenal range of decorative and scluptural styles practiced by Nampeyo.  Her aesthetic versatility was so broad that sometimes her best pieces have been confused with the work of other potters and other Pueblo traditions.  This Prehistoric Revival bowl is a case in point.  The former owners acquired it from a prominent auction house and it was not attributed to Nampeyo, whose Prehistoiric Revival ceramics are quite rare”

The painting on bowl 2012-02 in this collection is somewhat more complex than that on the Cooke bowl. The four triangular serrated frets on the inside of the Cooke bowl are all of the same design. In contrast, as noted above, bowl 2012-02 has two styles of frets on the interior of the bowl and one of these frets is bordered by a parallel line that unbalances the symmetry of the design. The design on the exterior of the Cooke bowl is formed from the same banded design with internal triangles and frets that form its interior design. As detailed above, on bowl 2012-02 the exterior painting uses two designs that are distinctive and not used on the interior of the bowl. Bowl 2012-02 is the more visually complex vessel.

Purchase History:
Purchased on 2/1/12. [Receipt on file.] The day I bought bowl 2012-02 (and 2012-03), I was working on a project with a colleague and exchanging emails with her, and checking frequently for her replies. By chance, three minutes after I received an email advertising this bowl for sale from Marti Struever, I saw and read the message. Impulsively, I called the gallery and asked Bonnie McClung (a sales assistant) if I could get a discount from the advertised prices if I bought both pots. I also asked Bonnie to reserve the pots for me while she determined the possibility of a discount. Bonnie called back less than 15 minutes later with both a discount and the news that she had already received additional offers on both pots. Impulsive behavior generally gets me into trouble. In this case, it allowed for the purchase of both 2012-02 and 2012-03.