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Historic Laguna Pueblo Black on White Design Olla


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  • Category: Historic
  • Origin: Laguna Pueblo
  • Medium: clay, pigment
  • Size: 6” height x 8” diameter
  • Item # C4068J
  • Price: $3,700.00

This is an historic child-size water jar that is believed to date to circa 1880s.  It has a warm cream slip over which are designs in dark brown pigment. The boldness of the design and the openness of its arrangement strongly lean to an origin of Laguna Pueblo.  The stacked arches are split through their centers, another trait of Laguna Pueblo, usually seen as “split leaf” designs but in this case interpreted as stacked rain clouds. The underbody is concave and orange in color and a red band was placed on the interior of the rim.

We have chosen to identify this as having originated at Laguna Pueblo primarily based on the size and design of the vessel.  Also, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway line had a daily stop at Laguna Pueblo to allow tourists to take a break, get off the train, and purchase souvenirs from the potters.  A vessel of this size and shape was certainly more attuned to the tourist trade than to pueblo use.

It is acknowledged that Acoma Pueblo potters loaded their wagons with pottery and made the daily trip to Laguna to take advantage of the train stopping there, which leads some to question whether a jar purchased at Laguna is of Acoma or Laguna origin.  It has been also acknowledged that Acoma potters generally filled the available area on a jar with designs whereas Laguna potters chose a more reserved approach and left sufficient space unoccupied on a jar. The design on this jar is much more related to Laguna than Acoma.

There is an excellent article in American Indian Art Magazine, Vol. 32, #3, Summer 2007, by Dwight Lanmon, entitled "Identifying Laguna Pueblo Pottery, Circa 1900." The information in the article gives a good understanding of how difficult it is to distinguish between Acoma and Laguna pottery.  A second article of interest is entitled "On Distinguishing Laguna from Acoma Polychrome," authored by Florence H. Ellis and published in El Palacio, Vol. 73, #3, Autumn 1966. It is worth reading because it makes distinguishing pottery from the two pueblos even more confusing.  

We must admit that making the choice of origin is more of an educated guess than a scientific one.  After decades of seeing pottery from the two pueblos, one begins to see the differences in design application and develops a seasoned talent for making the distinction.  

Condition: structurally in excellent condition.  There is a brown streak as if the potter’s brush slipped at one point.  Also there is a very small pop out at the same spot of the brown paint accident. UV examination does not reveal any damage or repairs.

Provenance: this Historic Laguna Pueblo Black on White Design Olla is from the extensive pottery collection of a family from Colorado

Recommended Reading: Acoma & Laguna Pottery by Rick Dillingham

Close up view of side panel design.

  • Category: Historic
  • Origin: Laguna Pueblo
  • Medium: clay, pigment
  • Size: 6” height x 8” diameter
  • Item # C4068J
  • Price: $3,700.00

C4068J-laguna.jpgC4068J-large.jpg Click on image to view larger.