Ohkay Owingeh Red over Tan Dough Bowl


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Artist Unknown

This vessel might be called a dough bowl or a storage jar, depending on its use.  It is typical of traditional San Juan Pueblo (now known as Ohkay Owingeh) Red-on-tan typology and dates from c1900. The upper two-thirds of the vessel is covered in highly stone-polished red slip over the basic tan vessel and the lower third remains a stone-polished natural clay body.  The interior was stone polished to the natural tan clay body to act as sealant of the natural clay.

The vessel was fired outdoors, but is devoid of any fire clouds.  The walls flare outward just so slightly and upward, then curve inward before rolling out again just slightly at the neck. The bowl has a beautiful globular shape with the widest diameter just above midpoint and a short graceful outwardly curving neck.  

According to Jonathan Batkin in Pottery of the Pueblos of New Mexico 1700-1940 (see reference link below), pottery making at San Juan Pueblo almost died out around 1900 except for an occasional piece made for household use or for sale or trade, but was revived in the 1930s.  The revival was more in tune with carved pottery of Santa Clara Pueblo as that is what the potters at San Juan thought would be best sellers.

Plainware jars depend on their shapes and burnishing of the slip to catch the eye of collectors.  There are no elaborate painted designs, but sometimes an array of fire clouds. Sophisticated collectors recognize the beauty of plainware jars and understand that most were made for the pleasure of the pueblo household and not for sale.  It is fortunate that some made it to market for today’s collectors.

The tradition of applying red slip only to the upper body is in line with the technique used at all the Tewa Pueblos.  Such a division line is not as easily recognized in polychrome painted jars and bowls because one is distracted by the designs.  Almost all Tewa jars have a similar unpainted lower part, below the painted design area. It is just more obvious on these early San Juan vessels.  It has been stated that the underside represents the underworld (kiva) and the upper portion the world of today.

Condition: this Ohkay Owingeh Red over Tan Dough Bowl is in very good condition

Provenance:  from a resident of Taos Pueblo

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

Close up view of the side panel.

Artist Unknown
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