Large Historic Acoma Pueblo Polychrome Pottery OLLA by Mary Histia [SOLD]


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Mary Histia, Acoma Pueblo Potter
  • Category: Historic
  • Origin: Acoma Pueblo, Haak’u
  • Medium: clay, pigments
  • Size: 12” height x 13-⅞” diameter
  • Item # C4554A
  • SOLD

This large OLLA was created by Mary Histia, an influential and highly regarded Acoma Pueblo potter.  Histia’s works are incredible examples of late historic era Acoma pottery, and we are always delighted to handle them.  In conversation with collectors, we occasionally describe certain historic pueblo pots as having “the magic.”  This, of course, is vague, but they know what we mean when we say this.  We’re referring to an undeniably alluring nature that can’t be articulated or quantified but is apparent to anyone who sees the piece, regardless of their level of knowledge or appreciation regarding pueblo pots.  Few would argue with the statement that this polychrome Acoma jar has “the magic.”

Histia’s design work is exceptional in every way.  She created three design bands, using patterns that are unique but perfectly complementary.  In the lower band, rectangular forms rest diagonally, with each form meeting the next at their corners.  For the wide central band, Histia used checkerboard diamonds and long rectangles filled with fine lines to form a larger zigzag pattern.  Its borders form large triangles, within which graceful curved triangular forms appear, balancing the lively zigzag design with a softer, gentler motif.  The upper band uses four repetitions of a complex but elegant design.  With the appearance of a rich, bright orange, and the presence of strong geometric patterns that call to mind both lightning and kiva step designs, there is much to appreciate in this upper section.

Impressively, the pot’s form matches the quality of its painted design.  It is a fine example of the traditional pueblo OLLA, expanded slightly beyond the average size to almost 14 inches in diameter. It is perfectly balanced, with the appealing type of slight variation that we expect of a hand-coiled pot.  Its large size gives its somewhat complex design scheme ample room to breathe—the patterns seen here might feel crowded on a smaller pot, but here, they feel perfect.  Spending time with a Histia pot is a true pleasure, as each one is expertly crafted and rich in character.  This pot, which likely dates to the 1920s, is one of the finest we’ve seen.

Artist Mary Histia (c.1893/1895-1973) is recognized as one of the finest Acoma Pueblo potters of the early 20th century. According to Batkin, she traveled to Washington DC and became popular as an unofficial potter to President Roosevelt. Her pottery soon decorated many government offices. Mary Histia deserves to be classed as a Modernist. Her art is old, yet alive and dynamic—an expression of a continuing vigor. She did not confine her art to a mere repetition of her previous work, nor did she resort to meaningless geometric designs, but she continually experimented and added to her repertoire. Her designs are at once classic and modern.  Histia passed away in 1973, and her works remain highly collectible today.

Condition: Excellent condition. Two small cracks on the rim, and a few abrasions near the midsection and bottom.  Blacklight examination reveals no signs of restoration or repair.

Provenance: this Large Historic Acoma Pueblo Polychrome Pottery OLLA by Mary Histia is from a private collection of a Midwestern family

Reference: Pottery of the Pueblos of New Mexico 1700-1940 by Jonathan Batkin

Realtive Links:  Acoma PuebloSouthwest Indian PotteryMary Histia, Acoma Pueblo Potter

Alternate view from the top of this jar.  Notice how the slip is applied about two inches down on the inside of the neck.

Alternate close-up view of side panel designs.