Polished Black San Ildefonso Pueblo Pottery Jar by Maria Martinez


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Maria Martinez, San Ildefonso Pueblo Potter

San Ildefonso Pueblo potter Maria Martinez is best known for creating Black-on-black pottery with her family members, but she also made excellent polished, unpainted pieces like this one.  It’s a classic Tewa vessel shape—a wide body with a long, tall neck that curves outward, just slightly, at the rim—that has been used successfully for centuries. This one falls into a unique category, sizewise. It is smaller than the early black water jars made by Tewa potters for use at the pueblos, but larger than the majority of the similarly shaped pieces that are created by contemporary artists.  

Maria, of course, is known for her collaborations with her family members.  They painted designs on her vessels, creating the Black-on-black typology pottery that collectors admire.  Vessels like this—unpainted, polished blackware—were created by Maria alone. This one is graceful and refined; it’s a reminder of why we use Maria’s name when referring to these styles and their lasting legacy.  The polish is phenomenal, it’s smooth and reflective with no abrasions or scratches. This is a simple, stylish piece of pottery that could complement any art collection. That it happens to have been made by a legend makes it even more appealing.

Artist Signature - Maria Montoya Poveka Martinez, Pond Lily, San Ildefonso Pueblo PotterThe bottom of the jar is signed Maria Poveka.

Maria Martinez (1887-1980) Poveka was a San Ildefonso Pueblo potter who is one of the most famous and influential figures in the world of Native American art.  Maria and her husband Julian were exposed to pottery being excavated on the Pajarito Plateau in 1907 and excitedly began recreating the ancestral pottery, in their own way.  They were inspired by the designs from the ancestral sherds and used them as inspiration for their newly-made Polychrome pottery. In 1912, they began making plain polished black pottery.  Blackware existed at all the Tewa villages at the time, but Maria and Julian refined the form and achieved a more highly polished finish that appealed to buyers. It was from this endeavor that their reputation was established. It was also at this time that Julian began painting designs on Maria’s vessels with a yucca brush and clay slip.  Maria, Julian, and many of their descendants would go on to become extraordinarily successful with their polished blackware and painted Black-on-black pottery.


Condition: this Polished Black San Ildefonso Pueblo Pottery Jar by Maria Martinez is in excellent condition

Provenance: private collection

Recommended Reading: The Legacy of Maria Poveka Martinez by Richard L. Spivey

Relative Links: Southwest Indian Pottery, Maria Martinez, Contemporary Pottery, San Ildefonso Pueblo, Julian Martinez