Seedpot 2013-12 is symmetrical, of even thickness, and smoothly sanded on the inside. The design is classic Nampeyo family with thick and thin framing lines bounding the painting. A cluster of design elements is evenly repeated four times around the shoulder of the jar. One pointed element is painted red and forms a sun-like pattern when seen from above. The other painting is black and includes a half circle, followed by three long parallel lines followed by a set of six or seven short lines perpendicular to the three long lines. Together these elements form a version of the Hopi rain cloud symbol. The jar is signed “Nampeyo/Nellie.”
For a more complete review of “Nampeyo” signed pots, see Appendix E.
Pot 2013-12 joins a substantial set of pieces in this collection that are signed “Nampeyo” on the bottom and were likely formed by “The Old Lady” after 1930, when she was largely blind and the Museum of Northern Arizona requested that potters sign their work. (See Nampeyo—Signed in the Index of Artists.) The pots were painted and fired by a daughter. Pot 2013-12 is unusual in a couple of ways.
First, while most of these signed pieces carry only the name “Nampeyo,” three others in the collection indicate the painter on the second line. Two of them, like pot 2013-12, indicate Nellie as the painter (2003-07 and 2019-08) and one lists Fannie as the painter (2007-12).
Second, pot 2013-12 challenges our assumptions about the quality of Nellie’s pottery. The polychromatic decoration, while not exceptional, is clearly and confidently painted. Such quality is at variance with Nellie’s reputation. Her black paint is often fugitive because she did not grind her hematite pestle long enough with the organic fixative, and her pots are often under-fired. (See 1991-03 and 1993-02 for lesser-quality Nellie jars.) Like wedding vase 2010-04 in this collection, jar 2013-12 exceeds our inaccurate expectations of Nellie.
Purchase History: Purchased on 4/27/13 on eBay from Michael Arkin of Corrales, NM. [Receipt on file.] In response to a request for provenance, he wrote:
Hi Craig: In the late 1970s and early 1980s I discovered Hopiland. Funny thing, before then I was clueless. Somehow or another my son and I ended up one weekend at Enchantment Resort in Sedona when it was brand new and no one knew about it. The maitre de at the restaurant was a PhD in Psychology and our waitress was a Masters, working on her thesis. When we showed surprise, they told us that being in Sedona was more important than making money in a big city. They introduced us to their friends and took us around to ancient Anasazi sites. Before too long they introduced us to people who connected us with people on Second Mesa. So, I eventually went up to Second Mesa and spent a week under the guidance of my hosts whose names are lost to me at the moment, Clarabel and Jacob something ending in Tewa. I made several trips to Hopi after that, having become enthralled by the culture, the art and the belief system. Jacob was a shaman and he took me to see Grandfather Jack who was then 106 or thereabouts. Grandfather took my arms in his large hands and chanted to me in Hopi for over an hour. I think my life changed after that. From time to time Clarabel took me around to her friends and relatives who were silversmiths, potters, and weavers - the potters lived on First Mesa and were Nampeyo descendants. At Alice Adam's granddaughter's house there were some small pots displayed, some old some new. I bought four of them, one Nellie, one Rachel, one Alice Adams, and one of the granddaughter's (unsigned). Later I was able to buy two broken and crudely reglued circa 1910 Nampeyo and Annie pieces. I think they had been picked out of the dump and put back together. Over the years I have collected some very nice Hopi, historical, and ancient pottery, along with some paintings, baskets, beadwork, and other Native American art. But, I am getting older now and none of my children seem to see the beauty in Native American art so I am now selling a few pieces every so often. I sold the Alice Adams piece several months ago, but haven't put anything else up for sale yet other than the (Nellie) pot you purchased.
I hope this answers your questions, I will try to get to the post office today but it closes early here on Saturday, so it may be Monday.