San Ildefonso Pictorial Lidded Jar, circa 1889
This is an intriguing storage jar that, based on the vessel shape, can be attributed either to Martina Vigil Montoya (1856-1916) or her mother, Toña Peña Vigil (b.1830).1 One need not guess the age of the jar as it prominently displays the year 1889 on the lid.
Collection data that accompanies the jar in the form of a hand-written letter from a Mrs. L. Wills states that it was purchased in 1901 in Santa Fe. The text of the letter, written on stationary from Hotel Corinado in Trinidad, Colorado, follows:
Indian Jug Oylla.
This said Oylla purchased in Santa Fe New Mexico and expressed to Mrs. L. Wills, Trinidad, Colo. 1901 by Miss Susie Gilchreest Chicago Ill – on her first trip west as a demonstrator for Sprague Warner – She misrouted it & one year later Mrs Wills read list of unclaimed Exp in Denver & found to be the investment of Miss Gilchreest sent Mrs. L. Wills – In 1901 it was claimed to her there were but three of this size “oylla” in U.S. and they were $100.00 each. (Signed) Mrs L Wills—
Even more intriguing is the pictorial story portrayed on the vessel in the area of the neck. There are three pictorial frames:
One frame illustrates a man holding the reins of a horse while the two are running—the man behind the horse as if being pulled along, his hat falling from his head.
A second frame shows a man riding a horse, who appears to be wearing the hat of the style often seen on priests of the time period.
The third frame shows two men fighting each other—one possibly with a club and the other with a knife. One of these men is named Juan and the other Jose.
On the handle of the lid is written the name Juan on one side and 1889 on the other side. The rest of the story is speculation. Does Juan’s name on the lid indicate that he was the winner of the fight and the jar was made in his honor, or does it indicate he was the loser of the fight and the jar was made as a memorial?
Was the man behind the horse trying to capture a runaway horse or was he attempting to steal the other man’s horse?
Was the man with the padre-like hat a Franciscan and, if so, what was his part in this story?
There are a couple clues as to some of the persons involved. Juan Arquero Vigil, originally from Cochiti Pueblo, was the husband of Toña Peña Vigil, who was the mother of Martina Vigil Montoya. Either potter could have made the jar – Toña for her husband, Martina for her father. If Toña made the jar in 1889, she would have been approximately 60 years old. If Martina made the jar at that time, she would have been 33 years old. Both women were probably actively involved in pottery production in 1889.
1Personal Conversation with Jonathan Batkin 2001.
Batkin, Jonathan, “Three Great Potters of San Ildefonso and Their Legacy” 16(4) 56-69, 85. American Indian Art Magazine.
“Martina Vigil and Florentino Montoya: Master Potters of San Ildefonso and Cochiti Pueblos” 12(4) 28-37. American Indian Art Magazine.
- Category: Historic
- Origin: San Ildefonso Pueblo
- Medium: Native Materials
- Size: 16" tall x 18" diameter (without lid)
- Item # 22709
- Price Available On Request
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