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An exceptional large and rare Hopi polychrome pottery jar by Nampeyo with the assistance of Fannie Nampeyo, c. 1920-25

Give this one a 12 out of 10 on the masterpiece meter. This jar is an all-time great piece in our considered opinions and as you can see from the numerous photos below we have owned and sold some extraordinarily fine Nampeyo pottery jars over the years, a number of which are now in the permanent collections of museums such as The Art Institute of Chicago and The Scottsdale, Arizona Museum of the West.

We firmly believe that this fantastic jar is on a par with any one of the exalted pieces pictured here. Like the other members of this distinguished and exclusive company, this jar is a true “trophy” piece in every sense of the word made to impress and proudly display.

Let’s start at the beginning here. This jar is the rare and unusual product of an unusual time and confluence of events. The great Hopi pottery Matriarch, Nampeyo of Hano (1858-1942) suffered from a rare eye disease called trachoma which caused her to have periodic episodes of diminished sight and blindness. In the early to mid-1920’s she suffered an extended bout of trachoma and her youngest daughter, the soon to be world-renowned potter in her own right, Fannie Polacca Nampeyo (1900-1986) became her Mother’s close pottery-making colleague and collaborator. Nampeyo would form and polish the vessel and Fannie would apply the painted design in close collaboration and consultation with Nampeyo. Fannie would subsequently sign these particular pieces of her Mother’s pottery “Nampeyo/Fannie” in all capital letters with Nampeyo’s name on top as seen here. This is one of the extremely rare instances of Nampeyo’s pottery actually being signed, as Nampeyo herself could neither read or write in English and never signed her pottery pieces.

On to the particulars of this amazing jar; the semi-globular shape is simply sublime and voluptuous, large and just beautifully balanced, like a delicious, bubble-icious big bubble. The stone polishing is almost otherworldly in its quality and beauty and the painted design in a word is explosive and incredibly vibrant; a typical Nampeyo-type arrangement consisting of a perfectly-balanced symmetrical four-part bi-laterally opposed arrangement of stylized bird, feather and arrow motifs (forms), very reminiscent of some of the designs on ancient Hopi Sikyatki-Period (1375-1625 A.D.) pottery as seen in the example below and also of designs which would soon be discovered by Archeologists in the 1930’s on the walls of the ancient Hopi Kivas in the ruined Hopi villages of Awatovi and Kawaiika-a which were contemporaneous with Sikyatki Pottery. These designs and symbols are deeply rooted in the Hopi’s history and tradition. Some of these designs have a distinctly Meso-American feel and symbolism as can be seen in the Nampeyo “Macaw” jar pictured below. There is a longstanding cultural connection between the ancient MesoAmerican world and that of Hopi including a commonality of language.

The painted designs are absolutely everywhere on the jar here, covering virtually every square inch of the jar going all the way up the next and down almost to the bottom where there is a characteristic Nampeyo double unbroken framing line. On this jar the designs are most richly, boldly and precisely rendered and as an additional and very attractive design element there are the numerous lovely white-ish-yellow-ish-orange-ish firing clouds or “blushes” on the vessel’s surface from its high-temperature firing in ultra-hot burning Lignite coal. These blushes beautifully intermingle with the panted elements becoming in effect an additional layer of design themselves. The overall effect here is absolutely spectacular (dazzling), one of the finest, most vivid and striking Nampeyo jars we have ever had the pleasure of having along with the other great examples pictured here. and another few words about the incredible all over stone polishing by Nampeyo, it’s so well done that the jar just absolutely glows.

The jar measures a very impressively-sized 13 3/4” in diameter and is 9” in height. It is in exceptionally excellent original condition particularly for its century or so of age with a few very small nicks and abrasions around the shoulder and on the bottom. There is a slight amount of “lean” when the jar is viewed form certain angles but this is a completely normal and natural occurence for a large handmade Pueblo pottery jar. The use of a round acrylic or other type of display base or stand would be a simple and easy way to even things out completely, if desired. In our view, this wonderful almost hard to believe condition indicates to us that the jar was very likely collected early and directly either from Nampeyo herself or from an early trading company which got it from Nampeyo such as J.L Hubbell or the Fred Harvey Company. This is precisely the kind of exceptional “Trophy” type piece the Harvey Company liked to display in the grand lobbies and public rooms of its important Southwest Hotels such as the El Tovar at The Grand Canyon, The La Posada in Winslow or the La Fonda in Santa Fe.

In any case, the jar has clearly been carefully safeguarded in its near-new condition for the entire past century which is truly Amazing, like a time warp right back to the 1920’s! A thorough examination under ultraviolet light reveals no evidence of any restoration or overpainting. The jar is properly signed “NAMPEYO FANNIE” in all capital letters in Fannie Nampeyo’s hand on the bottom as shown here. There is also an old collection number and an old paper price sticker of $15,000 on the bottom of the jar.

This superlative jar is a remarkable Nampeyo and Fannie Nampeyo masterpiece, a true world art treasure worthy of any great museum or top-tier private collection anywhere.

Price available upon request


Mural photo

As a comparative reference, here are six important large Nampeyo jars previously sold

by Fine Arts of the Southwest, 2002-2021

As a comparative reference, here are six important large Nampeyo jars we have previously sold over the past twenty years.

At far left, Nampeyo “Eagletail” jar sold to The Art Institute of Chicago. At second from left, Nampeyo jar sold to private collection,. At center left, Nampeyo corrugated jar sold to private collection and subsequently donated to The Scottsdale Museum of the West. At center right, Nampeyo upright jar sold to private collection. At near right, Nampeyo/Fannie “Migration” pattern jar sold to private collection. At far right, Nampeyo “Polikmana” kachina jar sold to private collection.

You can see a very similar bulbous fairly low-profile shape and somewhat similar stylized design motifs on this Hopi Polychrome type pottery jar, c. 1920’s in the collection of the Arizona State Museum in Tucson.

According to The Arizona State Museum,

“This large squat jar, very similar to jar GP6217, was purchased from the Commercial Hotel in Holbrook in September of 1928 by the Gila Pueblo Foundation, whose entire collections came to ASM in the early 1950s. Neither is identified as the work of Nampeyo, but it is highly likely that they are both hers. Nampeyo was well known for making jars this shape, especially in the period around 1920. The painting could be that of her daughters, as her eyesight was greatly diminished by this time. The jar has remnants of an adhesive tag and the price of $50.00 pencilled on the base. This was a princely sum for Indian pottery at this time, indicating high collector regard for quality Hopi wares. 44 cm diameter. (ASM# GP6216)”