Historic Tesuque Pueblo Polychrome Pottery OLLA with Red Rim


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Pueblo Potter Unknown
  • Category: Historic
  • Origin: Tesuque Pueblo, TET-SUGEH
  • Medium: clay, pigment
  • Size: 10-1/4” tall x 12” diameter
  • Item # SC3680E
  • Price: $8500

It is often difficult to distinguish between pottery made at San Ildefonso from that made at Tesuque. This jar has been attributed to Tesuque Pueblo based on the color of the base slip as it is the same in tonality as other pottery from Tesuque and does not fit well in color tone with pottery from San Ildefonso. An additional clue to the origin being identified as Tesuque Pueblo are the ripples in the polished tan clay on the underbody. The polished underbody on San Ildefonso jars is smooth, but is invariably rippled or bumpy on jars from Tesuque.

This is a traditional Tesuque jar or OLLA. True to tradition, the historic jar was constructed of native clay, slipped with a rag-wiped bentonite slip and decorated with designs typical of the 1880 period. There is a clay lip on the interior of the rim, an indication that this jar once had a lid. Most water jars did not have lids, so one must wonder if jars made with lids served another purpose than for water. The lip on the interior has an opening to allow for the handle of a ladle to rest and to permit a lid to be in place with the handle of the ladle sticking up. This probably answers our question as to whether this was a water jar or not.

Tesuque potters, because of their conservative nature, did not stray into the more commercial pottery that their neighboring pueblos fell into; rather, they kept to the traditional shapes and designs used by their predecessors. The red rim and red band near the underbody qualify this jar as a Tesuque Polychrome vessel.

On the underside, written in felt tip pen, is the following: JCE4 Fenn Gallery ‘84.  The design chosen for the body of the vessel consists of two identical exceptionally large elements, each of which occupies almost half of the body. The central diamond design, comprised of four triangles, encloses a variety of leaves, and attached to the outer edges are pods on stems. It is a bold design well suited for the volume of the vessel body.

There is a slight tilt to the jar, but not one to distract from the pleasure the jar provides. Additionally, on the underside, written in felt tip pen, is the following: JCE4 Fenn Gallery ‘84.

Condition: very good condition with a minor rim chip professionally restored.

Provenance: this Historic Tesuque Pueblo Polychrome Pottery OLLA with Red Rim is from the collection of a family from Santa Fe

Recommended Reading: Historic Pottery of the Pueblo Indians, 1600-1880 by Larry Frank and Francis Harlow.

TAGS: San Ildefonso, historic poteryTesuque Pueblo

Alternate view showing the top and inside areas.