Hopi Pueblo Large Ceremonial Pottery Jar by Jacob Koopee

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Jacob Myron Koopee, Hopi Pueblo Potter

Alternate side view of this Hopi seed jar.

The pottery by Hopi Pueblo artist Jacob Koopee is highly collectible because of his excellent workmanship and rarity. This example is particularly rare and will pique the interest of collectors who appreciate the unique and unusual. It's a large piece that is like a traditional seed jar with one notable difference: a gap in the round rim, with an extended opening that measures about an inch and a half. Everything about this vessel's shape is lovely. Its underbody curves gently and consistently to its widest point, then makes a sharp turn towards its flatter upper body and slightly flared rim. The entirety of its surface is polished to perfection, which is what collectors expect of an artist as skilled as Koopee. Its underbody—unmarked, entirely—provides an excellent chance for those who appreciate an exceptional polish to take a good look at the work of one of the greats.

According to the included documentation, the jar was made as a donation to some sort of religious event.  As such, it is unsigned, which is to be expected of pieces with that sort of purpose. The creator is not to be recognized for his or her contribution to the event, and so does not sign the piece.  Its designs, of course, are far from “normal”, making the viewer wonder what exactly its ceremonial purpose was. They’re very appealing, which is fortunate, as its intended use will likely remain unknown.  The primary elements here are two groups of human hands. Gathered around the rim’s gap are eight hands which are defined not by outlines but by what must be thousands of small brown dots. The hands themselves are the vessel’s gorgeous orange color, peering through the carefully shaped gaps in the dots.  On the opposite side, eight more hands appear. They’re similarly shaped and arranged, but they’re solid brown rather than defined by dots. Four hummingbirds gather on the same side, and an assortment of geometric patterns adorn the otherwise wide-open areas in between.

Jacob Myron Koopee (1970-2011) was a Hopi Pueblo potter.  He was the grandson of Marie Koopee, great-grandson of Nellie Douma Nampeyo (1896-1978) and great, great grandson of Nampeyo of Hano. Early in his career, Koopee made traditional Hopi-Tewa pottery with Nampeyo family design patterns.  At that time, in the mid-1990s, he signed his pottery “Jake Nampeyo”. Later, he made traditional pottery vessel shapes but modernized the imagery to those related to Sikyatki revival designs. He signed the later pieces “Koopee”. Koopee passed away in the summer of 2011, at just 41 years old. He was at the height of his career and had received many notable awards for his outstanding work.  He was regarded as one of the finest contemporary Hopi potters. His early passing was a great loss to the world of Native American Art.

The jar includes letters from a First Mesa resident and a dealer who specialized in Koopee’s work.  Each of these letters states that the jar is undoubtedly Koopee’s work and is unsigned because it was made for ceremonial purposes.


Condition: good, with some minor abrasions and areas where pigments have come off

Provenance: this Hopi Pueblo Large Ceremonial Pottery Jar by Jacob Koopee is from a private New Mexico collection

Relative Links: Southwest Indian PotteryJacob KoopeeHopi PuebloContemporary Pottery