Graceful and Magnificent Historic Acoma Polychrome Jar

C4843-acoma.jpg

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Once Known Native American Potter
  • Category: Historic
  • Origin: Acoma Pueblo, Haak’u
  • Medium: clay, pigment
  • Size:
    11-½” height x 12” diameter
  • Item # C4843
  • Price: $12500

The potter of this magnificent Acoma Pueblo jar likely made it in the late 1800s. The vessel itself is appealing; it was clearly made by skilled and experienced hands. It's slightly larger than the typical jar, which enhances the impact of the piece. Its shoulder is gently rounded, its taller-than-usual neck nearly reaches a vertical plane. It is gently and beautifully patinated from years of handling, which enhances the appeal immeasurably.

The painted designs on the exterior will likely appeal to many. As Harlow has noted on a similar jar, the design elements seen here are adapted from prehistoric pottery. A primary element, which he calls a "stepped-key figure with triangular eyes," is tucked in the black fine line elements as well as the stepped orange elements.

What may be considered the potter's focus are the bold circles hugging the mid-body. The wide brown circle frames a diamond which contains a checkerboard. According to Harlow and Lanmon (2013:263), checkerboards on Acoma pottery first appeared about 1780-1800 and on Zuni pottery shortly after 1750, so we see there is a history of the use of that design by potters at both pueblos. Harlow and Lanmon also state that checkerboards appeared on roughly 25 percent of all Acoma jars by 1920.

The potter's choice of using brown pigment for most of the design, and only using a limited amount of orange, results in a dynamic, strong appeal. Additionally, she wisely placed the design over the entire surface of the jar without dividing it into bands or sections. It is much more appealing as a painted surface rather than a divided one.

While there may be nothing groundbreaking about these designs, the way in which they were executed deserves praise—they're stylish, graceful, and full of character.

While the potter is undoubtedly no longer living and her identity will likely remain unknown, the fruits of her skill and creativity continue to make an impression. One would have to stretch one's imagination to find an area in which this jar could be improved.

Although not a fault, the jar tilts slightly. This was caused by the weight of the jar shifting slightly during construction while the clay was still moist.


Condition: very good condition structurally. There is some missing pigment around the rim and on the orange sections on the body (see below).

Provenance: this Graceful and Magnificent Historic Acoma Polychrome Jar has been in the collector's family since new. The collector's great grandfather was an Indian agent at the Sac and Fox Reservation in Oklahoma and was the original purchaser of this piece.

Reference: The Pottery of Acoma Pueblo, by Francis Harlow and Dwight Lanmon

TAGS: Southwest Indian PotteryAcoma PuebloHistoric Pottery

Condition: very good condition structurally. There is some missing pigment around the rim and on the orange sections on the body.

Alternate view of this Acoma Jar

Once Known Native American Potter
  • Category: Historic
  • Origin: Acoma Pueblo, Haak’u
  • Medium: clay, pigment
  • Size:
    11-½” height x 12” diameter
  • Item # C4843
  • Price: $12500

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