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Very Large Jar with Graceful Stylized Bird


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Nampeyo of Hano (1857-1942)

When Nampeyo of Hano was first making pottery, she was most likely making only utilitarian wares.  That is what she had learned from her mother, White Corn, who passed away sometime between 1901 and 1909.  Nampeyo’s mother and grandmother were her mentors.  It was not until Nampeyo’s husband Lesso was working with the excavation party at the prehistoric Hopi Sikyatki Pueblo ruins that Nampeyo was introduced to the magnificent prehistoric Sikyatki pottery shards that would influence her life’s work and that of her descendants.


Around 1880, Thomas Keam, a trader at Hopi, encouraged Hopi-Tewa potters to make pottery of the Sikyatki style.  There was not enough Sikyatki pottery available to satisfy his museum and collector clients, so he wanted pseudo copies made to fill that need.  Nampeyo was one of the potters he encouraged and apparently she was the one destined to become famous for the remainder of her life. 


This jar is very typical of the large jars made by Nampeyo in the early 1900s.  It most likely dates to 1910, a time when her eyesight was still good and she was able to paint her own pottery with Sikyatki-style designs.


One of the designs on the shoulder of this jar is a curved stylized bird with a long tail and a thin graceful neck with pointed beak and a magnificent plume on top of the elaborate head. The graceful manner in which this element was painted is a hallmark of Nampeyo’s work in the early 1900s before her sight began to deteriorate around 1920.  Adjacent to the bird is a flaming meteorite reentering earth’s atmosphere not likely, but that’s what it looks like.  There is also the possibility that the Sikyatki encountered flying objects.  Who are we to say?


The jar is the typical vessel shape made by Nampeyo many times.  It, too, has a flying saucer shape with a globular and rounded bottom.  An upper half slopes gracefully upward to a short neck with the slightest outward curve at its very tip.  The design panel on the shoulder is framed with two wide brown framing lines.


The jar sits at a slight tilt, a result of the clay shifting while still wet.  A previous owner has put three small wedges on the base to correct the tilt.  These can easily be removed if desired.


Condition: structurally in very good condition but there is some abrasion to the painted design. Remarkably there are no rim chips or cracks in the body, unusual for a jar that has been around over a hundred years.

Recommended ReadingCanvas of Clay – Seven Centuries of Hopi Ceramic Art by Wade and Cooke

Provenance: from a personal collection from a Colorado family.

Alternate View

Nampeyo of Hano (1857-1942)
C3776D-nampeyo.jpgC3776D-large.jpg Click on image to view larger.