Zuni Pueblo Large Historic OLLA with Rain Bird Designs

C4731i-zuni.jpg

+ Add to my watchlist Forward to Friend


Once Known Native American Potter
  • Category: Historic
  • Origin: Zuni Pueblo, SHE-WE-NA
  • Medium: clay, pigments
  • Size: 10” height x 13-⅜” width
  • Item # C4731i
  • Price: $14000

Expressive Geometry: The Rain Bird Motif in a 19th Century Zuni OLLA

This large OLLA, or water jar, was created by a Zuni Pueblo potter, most likely during the late 1800s. As far as vessel form goes, this is a fine example of that which is typical of a functional Zuni piece. At nearly fourteen inches in diameter, it is a bit larger than the average piece, which gives the OLLA a powerful presence. An attractive pattern of light wear from handling and use appears, most noticeably on the rim and base.

Two design bands appear, using a variety of elements to form a striking composition. Those who are familiar with Zuni pottery will recognize the Rain Bird element, which appears three times in the upper band and three times in the lower band. Here, the birds' eyes and beaks are their most recognizable components; their bodies eventually morph into flowing complex geometric forms. The unknown potter who made this piece expressed herself beautifully with this inspired, spirited composition.

The Rain Bird design was identified by H. P. Mera, who published a comprehensive study in 1937. Mera wrote, "Upon viewing, for the first time, a large collection of Pueblo pottery of the historic period gathered from the various villages where the art of the potter has been perpetuated for the last three centuries, one is very likely to be impressed by the seemingly endless variety of design. A more critical study, however, discloses the fact that in reality astonishingly few basic elements were employed to produce complex design structures." His point is well taken on jars with the Rain Bird design. As complicated as they can seem, many have significant similarities. [Mera 1937:1]

Mera further states that the Rain Bird design had its beginnings in the early centuries of the Christian era. These earlier designs were rudimentary, but one can see the beginnings of fine line elements with little attempt at organization. As time progressed to a thousand years later, these random designs began to assume more of a semblance of order. Eventually, the distal ends of straight lines began to curve, eventually leading to the volutes we see today in Zuni pottery. The execution of this design on this particular OLLA was a great success.

The black and red pigments over a white slip resulted in a strong and appealing color palette. The vessel itself is beautiful, and the wear pattern will appeal to those who appreciate the look of a fine historic piece. This is an excellent example of historic Zuni Pueblo pottery.


Condition: Good condition. One long crack that has been stabilized and repaired, and a small area of overpaint exists. Light wear from use appears, mostly around the rim and base.

Provenance: this Zuni Pueblo Large Historic OLLA with Rain Bird Designs is from a private collection

Reference: THE ‘RAIN BIRD': A Study in Pueblo Design by H. P. Mera. Memoirs of the Laboratory of Anthropology, vol. II. Santa Fé, New Mexico, 1937

TAGS: puki depressionpotteryZuni Puebloold pottery

Alternate view of this pottery OLLA or water jar.

 

Once Known Native American Potter
  • Category: Historic
  • Origin: Zuni Pueblo, SHE-WE-NA
  • Medium: clay, pigments
  • Size: 10” height x 13-⅜” width
  • Item # C4731i
  • Price: $14000

C4731i-zuni.jpgC4731i-large.jpg Click on image to view larger.