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Zuni Pueblo Nineteenth Century Polychrome Olla


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Potter Unknown

This is a superb nineteenth century vessel, dating to the last quarter of the 1800s. This olla has many distinctive Zuni design elements: the heart-line deer, spiral volute with fine-line embellishments and the “sunflower” rosette. The underbody is concave, as is typical of all ollas, or water jars dating after 1700. The base is slipped in brown, with distinctive flexure at the uppermost edge of the underbody, as well as a black-slipped, unpolished neck interior and rim top. The white slip is stone-polished with mineral-paint designs. The uppermost framing line is worked in black, overlaying the geometric/spiral volute fine-line elements worked in black and red.


The double framing line at the upper shoulder has one ceremonial break. At mid-body, the distinctive sunflower elements serve to anchor the composition. Above and below these central paired framing lines are two heart-line deer in black and red pigments, enclosed in an oval motif embellished with black and red geometric and fine-line motifs. This is a wonderful olla, in fantastic condition, with absolutely superb patina, incontrovertible evidence of the generations of hands that held, appreciated, used and perhaps loved this fine jar, a utilitarian object formed and intricately embellished to create a true work of art.


The heartline deer motif, an innovation of the 1860-1870 time period, is prominent on this vessel. It was previously referred to as an antelope, the meaning of which was provided by John G. Bourke in 1881:


The line running down from the animal's mouth and terminating at its heart may be described as a "prayer." It is a pictographic invocation to the "spirit of the antelope" to incline the hearts of the antelope on earth to put themselves in the way of the Zunis that they may kill them for food. I made careful inquiries upon this point and know that I have obtained the correct explanation.

Recommended Reading: The Pottery of Zuni Pueblo by Francis Harlow and Dwight Lanmon



Potter Unknown
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