Zia Pueblo Magnificent Large Historic Storage Jar with Deer


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Once Known Native American Potter

This magnificent large storage jar (13-¾" x 17") was made by a talented Zia Pueblo potter around the turn of the previous century or earlier. There is speculation about a possible name of the maker and thoughts on when it was made. The jar not only is magnificent, but it has a glorious design and a documented history. We will attempt to describe these attributes in the following paragraphs.

The jar measures a little over a foot in height and a foot and a half in diameter. The layout of the design is divided into four horizontal bands—the neck design, the shoulder design, the body design, and the traditional unpainted bottom section. The shoulder design is separated from that above and below it by wide double framing lines. The rim is black and there is a wide band on the interior of the neck that appears to have been red over brown pigment.

To start with the design encircling the neck, we see three wide rectangular bands. The design in each of the three is the same, so we will describe one panel. The most obvious element is a four-petaled red flower sprouting from a base that is marked with two split leaves. To the left of the flower are four thumb prints in dark brown that are mirrored on the opposite end of the panel where they are repeated but are only outlined in brown. A more geometric design continues to the right. Near the rim is a dark brown triangle with three annual solar eclipse circles. The lower dark brown triangles feature capped feather clusters of split brown triangles.

The next design band rests on the shoulder of the jar. It is framed with a pair of wide brown framing lines on its upper and lower edges. Inside this band we see two brown deer with antlers, eyes that are tiny black dots, and dark red on their inner ears. This red ear is a possible clue to the maker of the jar which we will discuss later. The deer stand on the wide framing line, and are walking to the left where we see spiral designs with double caps and trident filling of the Trios Period (1800-1930) of Zia pottery.

The third band, nearest the bottom of the jar, repeats the design surrounding the neck but it has been expanded in scale to fill the wider panel. There are some beautiful light fire clouds on this lower portion of the jar.

The lowest part of the jar is undecorated in the traditional style of most New Mexico pueblo pottery. It is without slip and was polished to a high sheen. Separating the lower design panel and this unpainted panel is a wide red wiped-on band. The bottom of the jar is flat, and a previous owner attached a layer of felt to protect the furniture on which the jar would be placed.

A little history of the jar is presented from documentation that has accompanied the jar through its later life. It was purchased from Packards, a store on the plaza in Santa Fe, on February 17, 1966, for $150. This information is from an art object catalog of Richard M. Howard, Santa Fe dealer and collector. It is not specified in the documentation that he was the purchaser at that time, however it is likely that he was.

Francis H. Harlow examined this pot on June 7, 1973, and said that he felt it was made about 1880, based on paint thickness & slight indentation below the design (puki depression). An unsigned note on the Richard Howard documentation states "This, to my way of thinking, is the finest Zia pot I have seen." It is assumed this quotation is from Francis Harlow. A further pencil comment on the document states "1900 + or -. I feel that the shape & paint are slightly later than 1880", but the name of the commenter for this statement is not noted. A note card from Morning Star Gallery states circa 1880-1900. With the expansive mid-body and evidence of use of a puki it is likely that the jar dates to around 1900.

The jar was exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago from July 16, 1977, to October 30, 1977. It is pictured in "The Native American Heritage" by Evan Maurer, color plate 21, and Figure 347, which was a publication of the Art Institute. (We have a copy of this publication to provide with the jar).

Now, for the stated speculation as to who made the jar, we refer to comments published in The Pottery of Zia Pueblo by Harlow and Lanmon. They discuss a jar in the collection of the Denver Art Museum (DAM) which is comparable in size and style to this one. The deer on the DAM jar have red-lined ears, like those which have been attributed to Isabel Medina Toribio or Virginia Salas by Zia elders. Mention is made of a well-known parallel to this DAM jar which may have been made by the same potter. We are confident that the well-known jar mentioned above is this Zia jar. Dwight Lanmon would have been aware of this jar when it was in the collection of Richard M. Howard.

Photo Source:  by Edward S. Curtis, 1925

The potters Isabel Medina Toribio [ca.1882 to 1889-1940] Aitiyé, Virginia Salas [1895-1984], and Trinidad Medina [1883/1884 -1969] SRA'EITI' have been suggested as possible makers of this glorious jar. The suggestion is based on potters who are known for deer with red ears. In 1900, Isabel would have been 11 to 18 years old, Virginia would have been 5 years old, and Trinidad would have been 16. If the dating of the jar at circa 1900 is accurate, it is not likely that either of the three would have been experienced to make such a magnificent jar.

The maker of this jar will remain unknown for the present. Perhaps, in the future, someone will provide the identification of the potter but, in the meantime, we will enjoy the beauty of this masterpiece without knowing who made it.

Condition: this Zia Pueblo Magnificent Large Historic Storage Jar with Deer is in excellent condition

Photo Source:  Isabel Medina Toribio (c.1882-1940) Aitiyé by Edward S. Curtis, 1925


-from the collection of Alice Meyers

-from the collection of Richard M. Howard, Santa Fe, NM

-currently from the collection of a Santa Fe resident


- The Native American Heritage-A Survey of North American Indian Art by Evan M. Maurer, The Art Institute of Chicago, 1977

The Pottery of Zia Pueblo by Francis H. Harlow and Dwight P. Lanmon, School for Advanced Research Press, 2003

TAGS: Pueblo PotteryIsabel Medina ToribioTrinidad MedinaZia Pueblo, Tsi-ya

Alternate view of this historic Zia Pueblo jar.

Once Known Native American Potter
C4839A-zia-jar.jpgC4839A-large.jpg Click on image to view larger.