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THIS JAR is pretty much the textbook definition of beautiful. It has a beautiful shape, a beautiful design, a beautiful stone polish, a beautiful provenance and is in absolutely beautiful original condition. This one is a real beauty queen all the way around.
This is the renowned Nampeyo of Hano (1858-1942) at her very finest; the vessel is perfectly formed in a the swooping low-profile “Sikyatki Revival” shape she pioneered. The painted decoration is incredibly inventive, complex and perfectly executed in a four-part symmetrical design with two pairs of bilaterally opposing panels containing various eagle tail, feather, foliate, prayer plume and geometric design elements. Next is the marvelous stone-polishing so finely done that the vessel actually glows like an orange yellow sun. And finally there’s that wpnderful and unique color, midway between a yellow polychrome and a red polychrome. This color is reminiscent of the Ancient Hopi pottery type Jeddito Black on orange (1275-1400 A.D.). Technically, this vessel is a completely unique expression of a four-color polychrome with red paint, black paint and an unusual small section of greenish-white kaolin paint forming the fourth color.
A Hopi Jeddito Black-on-Orange Pottery Jar, c. 1275-1400 A.D.
Photo source and © Museum of Northern Arizona
A UNIQUE AND SUPERB POLYCHROME JAR BY NAMPEYO, c. 1900-1905
All great artists share one thing in common, an intense aesthetic drive that propels them to experiment. Laying aside a proven publicly successful style, they willingly enter the unknown terrain of innovation, risking all in the pursuit of the new. This is as true for Nampeyo as it is for Fra Angelico, Picasso, and a Dogon mask maker, since genius is not prescribed to any one culture nor timeline. For the rare few, it is universal, embedded in the genetic structure of their DNA and the biologic wiring of their minds. It is the signature of greatness.
Pictured above is an object that resides in that rarified domain, consummate in the execution of its composition, which perfectly complements the saucer shape of the vessel to create a harmonious whole.
Unexpected, though, is the color-field of the jar’s surface, a mellow nut-brown or moist mahogany. Scholars and collectors are most familiar with her pearlescent white Kaolin firing slip and less so her red ware, but the coloration seen here is largely unknown. At least seven such vessels exist but they are scattered across private and public collections. No study has been made of the process by which this color was achieved, or the rarity of such works. Interesting, since this color-field adorns a number of her finest creations.
Likely the process consisted of both a mixing of the clays of her white and red ware and an adaptation of her firing method in which more carbon was produced within the firing atmosphere. Irrespective of the technology, the intentional result is beautiful, resulting, as here, in a gently mottled, aged-honey surface which through meticulous polishing conveys visual depth.
Most intriguing is the presence of positive fire clouds in which the underlying white slip glows forth in a whitish -yellow halo. How she achieved this remains a mystery, but seems to suggest some masking of these select areas, perhaps by a pot shard resting upon the vessel’s walls.
Another mystery is why so few of these vessels were made. Was it just a personal whim or did the market forces have an influence? Turn-of-the-20th century Indian curio promotions stressed her revival of a lost white ware ceramic tradition, Sikyatki Polychrome (1375 AD – 1625 AD). Did this typecast what her pottery was supposed to look like, and these darker vessels didn’t conform? Likely we will never know, but here is revealed a new insight into the creative genius that was Nampeyo.
It is for all these reasons-it’s distinctive rarity, artistic integrity, ingenuity and deeply satisfying beauty that I was proud to collect and have treasured this singular object for years.
-Edwin L. Wade, Ph.D.
A particularly beautiful Hopi four-color polychrome pottery jar by Nampeyo, c.1900-1905
Ex: Dr. Edwin L. Wade Collection
The jar’s has a most excellent provenance, it comes to us directly from the personal, private collection of the distinguished Hopi pottery scholar, author and former longtime museum curator, Edwin L. Wade Ph.D. The jar will also be featured in Dr. Wade’s forthcoming latest book on Nampeyo and related pottery entitled “The call of beauty, masterpieces by Nampeyo of Hopi” which is due to be published in Fall 2021. Dr. Wade’s written analysis of this jar is reproduced here in its entirety below and the signed original copy of Dr. Wade’s essay on his personal letterhead will be included along with the purchase of the jar.
The jar measures a very nicely-sized 13” in diameter and is 6” in height and it is in extraordinary original condition. There are no cracks, no significant chips or abrasions and there is no restoration or overpainting in evidence under a thorough Ultraviolet light examination.
This outstanding jar by this remarkable Hopi artist would give serious credit to any collection, public or private, large or small, anywhere in the world.