Tony Da Black and Sienna Jar with Three Turquoise Stones

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Tony Da, San Ildefonso Pueblo Painter and Potter

This jar was created by Tony Da, a San Ildefonso Pueblo artist who was the grandson of Maria Martinez and the son of Popovi Da.  As a member of this family, Da was surrounded by innovative and influential minds, so it comes as no surprise that he was able to succeed in the arts.  What is astonishing, though, is that he managed to both master his predecessors’ styles and develop an entirely unique vision, all within a relatively brief period. This particular piece falls within the former category, as the black and sienna style was originally created by Popovi Da.  Popovi’s examples are highly sought after, and Tony’s are similarly rare, as seen in our Item #C4560C.  With this piece, Tony created a fine tribute to his father’s distinctive pottery style—one which, it should be noted, is particularly challenging to execute.

Tony’s jar has a classic, elegant form—a favorite of many collectors of contemporary pueblo pottery, and for good reason.  The jar’s polish is phenomenal, with a wonderfully glossy look when viewed from a distance, and countless tiny waves of horizontal motion becoming visible when the jar is studied up close.  Three turquoise stones are set equidistant from one another, just above the jar’s widest point.  A sienna band circles the jar’s rim, sending rounded triangular forms down to surround the three turquoise stones.  Each element was crafted and executed with near-perfect precision, and all together, they feel complementary and balanced.  This is a wonderful example of Tony Da working comfortably and skillfully with one of his ancestors’ styles.

Artist Signature of Tony Da, San Ildefonso Pueblo Painter and PotterThe bottom of the jar is signed DA.

Tony Da (1940-2008) Thun-Phoe-She (Sun Dew) was a San Ildefonso Pueblo artist.  In his early years, he experimented in jewelry making and painting. Following a stint in the U.S. Navy, he returned to San Ildefonso in 1964, was fascinated with what ancestors Maria and Popovi were doing and apprenticed himself to his grandmother. Tony drew easily but selectively on his experience with both painting and jewelry. Early on, he worked in the two-tone black-and-sienna style, which his father Popovi Da introduced.  Tony moved rapidly into the setting of turquoise into some of his wares, such as lidded vessels, bear fetishes, and elaborate turtle figurines. He also produced magical combinations of clay and wrought silver, as well as pottery inlaid with shell beads, or “heishe”. Tony's work is immediately recognizable, and viewers have compared his more complex pieces to such objects as Middle Eastern jewelry boxes and Byzantine reliquaries. Da went on to become enormously successful, and his success was justified by his talent and vision.  Today, his pottery ranks among the most valuable Native American artworks.

The Martinez-Da family was fraught with tragedy, especially on the male side.  Julian Martinez died prematurely in 1943, at the age of 46 years.  He was at the peak of his career.  Popovi Da, likewise, died early, in 1971, at the youthful age of 48 years.  Tony's pottery career ended abruptly on Friday, April 15, 1982. At the age of about 42 years, he was in a motorcycle accident that precluded his return to pottery making, though he did continue painting.  With all of the wonderful artistic creations left to us by these remarkable artists, one can’t help but wonder what they would have gone on to do had they been able to create for another ten or twenty years.  Tony Da passed away peacefully on the 12th of February 2008 at 67 years of age.


Condition: excellent condition

Provenance: this Tony Da Black and Sienna Jar with Three Turquoise Stones is from a private New Mexico collection

Recommended ReadingThe Legacy of Maria Poveka Martinez by Richard Spivey

TAGS: San Ildefonso PuebloPopovi DaMariaJulian MartinezpotteryMaria and Julianutilitarian potteryPopovi Da began assisting Mariapaintingjewelryfetishesjewelry boxesprehistoric Mimbres cultureceramics, Tony Da

Alternate view from the top.
Tony Da, San Ildefonso Pueblo Painter and Potter
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