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An exceptionally beautiful historic Hopi polychrome pottery bowl by Nampeyo of Hano, c.1915-1920

Possibly Ex: J.L. Hubbell Trading Post, Winslow, AZ, 1920

Here is one of America’s earliest Modernist painters at her very best form. The painted design on this bowl is

almost explosive in its creative power and exuberance, somewhat like a precision smart bomb going off in a paint factory, to use a descriptive analogy.

The design has its antecedent in the shockingly beautiful and equally Modernistically-styled designs found on

the ancient form of Hopi pottery known as Sikyatki Polychrome. Made from 1375-1625 A.D. Sikyaki designs are sophisticated, stylized, incredibly detailed and once again shockingly modern and often highly abstracted in their perspective and presentation. In the latter years of the 19th Century, Nampeyo and several other Hopi potters

began a “SIkyatki Revival”, using and adapting the old Sikyatki designs to their own pottery.

"Nampeyo makes her designs after some she has seen on ancient ware."

-Hopi Ethnologist Alexander M. Stephen, 1893

"Mrs. Nampeyo, an acknowledged best Hopi indian woman Pottery maker 1st Mesa Hopiland, Ariz. Sichomovi."

R. Raffius, 1905 photo source and © Keystone-Mast Collection, UCR/California

Museum of Photography, University of California, Riverside

“When I first began to paint, I used to go to the ancient village and pick up

pieces of pottery and copy the designs. That is how I learned to paint. But now,

I just close my eyes and see designs and I paint them.”


Now back to the bowl. This "Sikyatki-Revival" design and execution has virtually all the hallmarks of a typical Nampeyo design and construction; four precisely-matched pairs of horizontally-opposed identical designs, use of streaky red paint, stippling, “Kilroy” or clown face deigns, use of positive and negative design space, an extra coil of clay around the inside of the rim, beautiful all-over long-stroke stone polishing of self-slipped untempered Antelope Mesa clay and ultra-high temperature firing with Hopi Lignite coal also from Antelope Mesa.

The bowl measures 9" in diameter and is 2 3/4" in height. It is in completely excellent original condition, especially in light of its 110-120 years of age. There are no cracks and no chips and a thorough examination of the vessel under Ultraviolet light reveals no evidence of restoration or overpainting anywhere.

There are two very interesting old pencil inscriptions on the back of the bowl which read as follows:

“Winslow, Arizona, August 12th, 1920"

“August 12th, 1920”

Because of Nampeyo’s particular genius she was able to make these vessels, such as this bowl, into high art.

There are some Southwestern museum curators who think it is pretentious to apply terms like “Modernism” to people such as Hopi potters who were not trained European or American artists. These curators argue that it is indulging in intellectual acrobatics on the part of people like us to apply this term to historic Native artists ho were never exposed to Modernism as defined in the Anglo-European sense.

We find that argument intellectually lacking. We would argue oppositely that ancient Native Ammerican artists,

along with their cave-painting and sculpture-making counterparts in Europe and Asia were actually some of the world’s first Modernists, as witnessed by their many thousand year-old artistic tradition of extremely modernistic expressions

in rock art and pottery. To relegate this as being “primitive art” only is to diminish and disprespect it, in our view.

The old J.L. Hubbell Trading Post in Winslow, Arizona.

Photo source and © Wikipedia

From the dating and the location, these inscriptions indicate that the bowl was very likely acquired from the old Juan Lorenzo (J.L.) Hubbell Trading Post in Winslow, Arizona which was one of the primary sales outlets for Nampeyo’s pottery at this time. Hubbell’s purchasing agents went to Hopi frequently to purchase pottery from Nampeyo and also purchased it from the Fred Harvey Company’s agents at Hopi and Nampeyo herself occasionally traveled to Winslow to sell pottery to the Hubbell Trading Post.

This bowl is a beautiful brilliant work of original art sy a brilliant modern-era Native American artist creating her extraordinary art under the type of harsh and primitive conditions that would have made her artistic contemporaries blanch with horror and run for the hills in terror. Try buying a beautiful original work by one of Nampeyo’s distinguished late 19th/early 20th Century Modernist artist colleagues; Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Joan Miro, Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Salvador Dali, Amadeo Modigliani, Jean Arp etc. for anything even close to this amount of money. Good luck!

Price $7,800


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