Acoma Pueblo Black-on-White Historic Pottery OLLA

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Pueblo Potter Unknown
  • Category: Historic
  • Origin: Acoma Pueblo, Haak’u
  • Medium: clay, pigments
  • Size: 11-¼” height x 12-¼” diameter
  • Item # C4624F
  • Price: $12500

This gorgeous black-on-white OLLA, or water jar, was created by an unknown Acoma Pueblo artist. We date it to the late 1880s or very early 1900s. With rounded shoulders leading to slightly extended neck, the OLLA takes on a compelling form. Its diameter is about an inch larger than its height, which works together with the raised neck to create a well-balanced vessel.

The unknown creator of this OLLA chose black-on-white over the brightly colored pigments that were also used at the time. A primary cluster of design elements repeats three times around the OLLA’s exterior, using a variety of traditional Acoma motifs within and around a central rectangular form. A leaf grows from each corner of each of the squares, reaching up to the rim or down to the red-slipped base. Their tips meet those of their neighbors, linking each of the design clusters into one larger, continuous whole. A series of vertical lines appears within each “V” shape formed by two adjoining leaves, creating small but potent rainstorms that circle the OLLA’s surface.

Earlier this year, we listed a piece with designs that are nearly identical to those that appear on this piece. The only notable difference is the presence of bright orange pigment in certain areas of the previously listed piece. Their shapes are nearly identical as well, which leads us to believe that these two pieces were made by the same potter. A jar with the same design as these two was photographed in 1902 by Miss Josephine Foard as it sat on an adobe wall near the train station at Laguna Pueblo. That photograph is reproduced in Figure 26.10 in the book The Pottery of Acoma Pueblo, page 532.

Francis Harlow and Dwight Lanmon, co-authors of the book, state: "unidentified potter, almost certainly from Acoma, ca. 1902. The photograph was taken near the Laguna train station, where potters from Acoma and Laguna gathered to await the arrival of Santa Fe Railroad trains." While we cannot identify the potter with confidence, we can say that we believe these pots were made by the same artist. The photograph provides further evidence in support of our estimated age for this piece.

The details are important, and we strive to present them as accurately as possible, which can be challenging with unsigned pieces. What is most significant, though, are attributes that cannot be measured, recorded, or quantified: the beauty of a piece and the energy it possesses. This example excels in that regard. It is classic Acoma in every way, and it is a joy to view and handle.


Condition: Excellent condition. Visible wear and abrasion from handling, and one small area of overpaint which is visible only under a blacklight. No chips or cracks.

Provenance: this Acoma Pueblo Black-on-White Historic Pottery OLLA is from a private New Mexico collection

Reference: The Pottery of Acoma PuebloFigure 26.10, page 532. Francis Harlow and Dwight Lanmon

TAGS: Southwest Indian PotteryAcoma PuebloHistoric Pottery

Alternate view of this vessel showing the inside rim.

Pueblo Potter Unknown
  • Category: Historic
  • Origin: Acoma Pueblo, Haak’u
  • Medium: clay, pigments
  • Size: 11-¼” height x 12-¼” diameter
  • Item # C4624F
  • Price: $12500

C4624F-acoma.jpgC4624F-large.jpg Click on image to view larger.