Historic Polychrome San Ildefonso Pueblo OLLA


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Potter Once Known

San Ildefonso Polychrome Olla: A Testament to Pueblo Pottery Tradition

This polychrome olla was made by a San Ildefonso Pueblo potter. San Ildefonso Pueblo is most commonly recognized for the Black-on-black pottery that was originally created by Maria and Julian Martinez around 1920. Prior to that and dating back to about 1880, polychrome pieces like this one were the predominant style. Before 1880, the red that appears heavily on later polychrome jars was used only for thin bands at the rim and base. Not coincidentally, 1880 marked the arrival of the tourist trade—the heavy use of red likely evolved to meet the demands of the market.

This San Ildefonso Polychrome olla likely dates to the early 1900s. The vessel's form—globular, with the exception of a flat base and outward-curving rim—is typical for a work from this period, but it is a notably well-executed example. The one unusual addition is a flat plane circling the rim's interior, which was likely added to support a lid. Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly, the lid did not survive.

Three design bands appear on the exterior. The lowest and widest uses repeating step patterns in black and red. The center band covers the shoulder in crisscrossed diagonal lines, forming a band of hundreds of tiny diamonds. The upper band echoes the lower band, but instead uses triangular forms and plantlike elements. A fourth design band covers the interior rim in black and red inverted rain clouds.

With its attractive shape and bold, confidently executed designs, this olla has a strong presence. It is an excellent example of the polychrome style that was produced at San Ildefonso during the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Condition: excellent condition

Provenance: this Historic Polychrome San Ildefonso Pueblo OLLA is from a private collection

Reference: Batkin, Jonathan. Pottery of the Pueblos of New Mexico 1700-1940. The Taylor Museum of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, 1987.

TAGS: Southwest Indian PotterySan Ildefonso PuebloHistoric Pottery

Alternate view of this pueblo olla.

Alternate view of the top of this water jar.

Potter Once Known
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