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Black and Sienna Antelope Pictorial Shallow Dish

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Tony Da (1940-2008) Thun-Phoe-She (Sun Dew)

Tony Da was among the first of the pueblo potters to expand the popularity of such beyond the average collector of traditional pottery.  He rapidly advanced his art and techniques from the traditional beginning of bear figurines and sgraffito-designed jars to elaborate works of art.

Tony was destined to become one of the finest artists of the 20th century. His grandparents, Maria and Julian Martinez, and his father, Popovi Da, were skilled artists. Tony was a painter from early in life, and was winning awards for his paintings. A change occurred when he moved in with his grandmother in 1966. She taught him the techniques of pottery making and he learned very well. Within three years, Maria said he had nothing else to learn from her.

Artist Signature - Tony Da (1940-2008) - Thun-Phoe-She (Sun Dew)Tony's first pottery pieces were simple bear figurines. Maria commented that he was very good and she could not do anything to make him better, except that he needed to learn to make ollas, which, of course, he did. His early jars were simple red ones with an Avanyu encircling the body just below the rim.  From these simple figurines and jars, Tony rapidly expanded his repertoire to elaborate and beautiful pottery creations.

This black shallow dish, made around 1970, has a sienna rim encircling the design of a sgraffito antelope that rests in the base of the dish.  The heartline from the mouth to the heart expands as it enters the body.

In 1982, Tony suffered massive head injuries in a motorcycle accident, which left him unable to continue his pottery career.  Fortunately for us, he left a legacy of outstanding art objects.


Condition: this Black and Sienna Antelope Pictorial Shallow Dish is in excellent condition

Provenance: from the collection of a family from St. Joseph, Missouri

Recommended Reading: The Life and Art of Tony Da by Charles S. King

What is an Avanyu?  a deity of the Tewa Pueblos—San Ildefonso, Tesuque, San Juan, Santa Clara, Nambe, and Pojoaque—and is the guardian of water. He is represented as a horned or plumed serpent with curves suggestive of flowing water or the zig-zag of lightning. He appears on the walls of caves located high above canyon rivers in New Mexico and Arizona and may be related to the feathered serpent of Mesoamerica— Quetzalcoatl and related deities. 

What is Sgraffito Carving? A method of pottery design known as sgraffito carving is relatively new in pueblo pottery traditions. Rather than deep carving, as is more traditional at Santa Clara Pueblo, sgraffito is achieved by scraping the vessel with a sharp instrument to achieve a shallow depth. The pottery is formed in the traditional coil method, slipped with a watery clay and stone polished before the sgraffito carving commences.

Close up view of the sgraffito antelope design.

Tony Da (1940-2008) Thun-Phoe-She (Sun Dew)
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