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Very Large Black Storage Jar with Bear Paws

C4012B-jar.jpg

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We often credit Maria and Julian Martinez with the creation of black pottery, but their contribution was to improve the technique already in existence and to add matte decorations to the blackware.

Black pottery was being made at all the northern Tewa-speaking PueblosSan Ildefonso, Tesuque, San Juan, Santa Clara, Nambe, and Pojoaque—before 1900, and even before the arrival of the Spanish in the late 1500s.  Those were stone polished but not with the high sheen of today’s blackware. The polishing was designed to seal the surface, not intended to impress a collector.

It appears that the largest storage jars were made at San Juan Pueblo, and only slightly smaller ones were made at the other Tewa-speaking pueblos.  Generally, the blackware was plain, that is without decorations of any kind.  The earliest form of decorations might be considered the vessel shapes as they were beautifully executed and needed no decoration to cause one to marvel at the beauty.

There are documented examples of jars with impressed bear paws that date as early as 1900.  That may be the first attempt to add designs to jars.  It is well documented that Sara Fina Tafoya and Margaret Tafoya used bear paws on blackware, but the paws on this jar are not of the style of either potter.

This jar probably dates to circa 1890-1910, and was most likely made for use at the pueblo.  Large jars were not routinely made for sale because of transport difficulties, but occasionally a visitor to a pueblo would see one in use and make an offer to purchase it.

This jar is beautifully globular in shape with a flat bottom and an upright stove-pipe neck with a turned-out rim.  Five bear paw impressions are located just above the mid-body of the jar.  The potter obviously had a keen sense of shape and balance. The jar is slightly wider than tall, a feature that established solidity of form.  It is massive, yet graceful.


Condition: this Very Large Black Storage Jar with Bear Paws is in very good condition

Provenance:  previously sold by a gallery in Santa Fe to a Santa Fe family from whom we recently acquired it.

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

Alternate view of the stove-pipe neck.


C4012B-jar.jpgC4012B-large.jpg Click on image to view larger.