2012-14 Jar with Corrugated Neck and Polychromatic Avian Designs

Object ID:

Nampeyo 2 (unsigned); painted by a daughter

3.75” h X 4.375” w

Pueblo pottery is made by first pressing clay into a shallow dish-shaped base known as a puki in the Tewa language. Additional coils of clay are then laid on the edge of the puki and built up to form the sides of the vessel. Walter Hough (1915:78) describes Nampeyo beginning a pot in this manner (although he refers to the puki with the Hopi term tabipi). On jar 2012-14, the base formed in the puki is exceptionally thick and heavy. The bottom inside of the pot (the top of the base) is unfinished and roughly merges with the relatively thin, smooth vessel walls. It’s a curious dichotomy.

Barbara Kramer writes:

“Documentation is lacking, but evidence enforces the belief that (Nampeyo) began to make tactile decorations and shapes. A photograph taken by Emry Kopta around 1920 is the earliest to show a jar with a corrugated neck, several other corrugated jars can be attributed to this period”
(1966:123, 153).

Kramer then reprints the Kopta photograph, commenting that “Nampeyo looks older (than 1920) in this undated photo that may have been taken shortly before Kopta left Hopi in 1922. Because of diminished eyesight, Nampeyo was adding tactile decoration to her vessels during this period… As her eyesight diminished, the potter expressed her creativity with tactile forms” (1996:123, 153).

Kramer reproduces color photographs of two other corrugated pots by Nampeyo (1996: plates 13 and 15, pgs 153-154). The first of these jars is signed “Nampeyo” on the bottom. (Also see Blairs 1999: fig 3.16 following page 172). After 1930, vessels shaped by Nampeyo and painted by a daughter (most often Fannie) were often signed “Nampeyo.” (See “Nampeyo Signed” in the Index of Artists for a discussion of this topic.) The pot whose photograph is reproduced in both the Kramer and Blair books is of this genre.

The second of the two pots is interesting because the interior of the pot seems to be roughly finished and a section of painting (presumably by a substantially blind Nampeyo) is crudely painted while the bulk of the painting (presumably by a daughter) is well done. It is unsigned.

The painting on jar 2012-14 is especially well done and, to my eye, looks like the work of Fannie. (See Fannie Nampeyo in the Index of Artists.) The designs include a range of fairly typical avian and linear designs, including a triangle motif reminiscent of the design of Nampeyo’s large individual canteen (2009-10). The red is somewhat blotchy, as would have been typical before 1930 when the Museum of Northern Arizona successfully insisted that Hopi pots entered into the museum exhibition have more uniform color (Allen 1984:67-69).

The attribution of an unsigned pot to Nampeyo is always problematic (Cusick:1984), but based on the above information, I judge pot 2012-14 to have been formed by Nampeyo and painted by Fannie. It was probably was made in the 1920s—before the establishment of the Hopi Show at the Museum of Northern Arizona in 1930 which accounts for pots signed “Nampeyo.” (Moma could not write. A younger relative, often Fannie or a grandchild supplied the signatures.) It’s possible that some mother/daughter pots made by Nampeyo after 1930 and not intended for sale through the Museum of Northern Arizona were unsigned. We simply do not know. If this is the case, pot 2012-14 might have been made later than 1930 up until “The Old Lady’s” death in 1942.

Purchase History:
Purchased on 6/10/12 on eBay from Doug Watson (“kolbcanyon”) of Birmingham, AL. [Receipt on file.] He had purchased it on 4/18/12 from Quinn’s Auction Galleries in Falls Church, Virginia, as part of a two-pot box lot. Ah well, I knew about the lot but forgot to bid. Doug wrote that Quinn’s had no provenance on the pot.