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A selection of three historic Hopi
polychrome pottery “Migration” pattern pieces
by Fannie Polacca Nampeyo, c. 1950’s
This extraordinary group of pottery pieces comes from the fertile mind and highly-skilled hands of one of the 20th Century’s greatest Pueblo potters, Fannie Polacca Nampeyo (1900-1986) youngest Daughter of renowned Hopi pottery Matriarch Nampeyo of Hano (1858-1942).
Young Fannie literally grew up making pottery at her mother’s side alongside her older sisters, Annie Healing Nampeyo (1884-1968) and Nellie Nampeyo (1896-1978). Initially, she helped her mother and sisters paint jars. Fannie became an extraordinary painter and an invaluable artistic partner to her Mother as Nampeyo had recurring vision problems. In the late 1910’s and early 1920's, Fannie increasingly began making her own pottery eventually over the next seven decades perfecting a style which used distinctly Nampeyo family designs executed at a very high quality level with fine vessel formation, firing and polishing and decorated with excellent bold painting with strong, rich saturated colors.
These three pieces are examples of Fannie most developed and finest work. The subject of these three pieces is variations of the famous Hopi “Migration” pattern which symbolizes the Hopi clans ancient wandering search
for their proper place in the world.
Migration Plaque #1
7 1/2" diameter, 3/4" height. Excellent original condition with no restoration or overpainting in evidence under UV light examination. A minor area of abrasion and paint loss. Properly signed “FANNIE NAMPEYO” in capital letters on the back.
Acrylic display stand is included.
Migration Plaque #2
7 1/4" diameter, 1/2" height. Generally excellent original condition overall with no restoration or overpainting in evidence under UV light examination. One area of abrasion and paint loss, about 1” by 1”. In profile, the plaque’s clay body has a very slight amount of warping, but this is inconsequential. Properly signed “FANNIE NAMPEYO” in capital letters on the back. Acrylic display stand is included.
5 3/4" diameter, 4" height. Excellent original condition with no restoration or overpainting in evidence
under UV light examination. Properly signed “FANNIE NAMPEYO” in capital letters on the bottom.
At left, Sikyatki Polychrome low jar with Migration pattern design, c. 1500-1550. At right, Sikyatki Polychrome jar with Migration pattern design, c. 1500. At center, Fannie Nampeyo, at left working with her mother Nampeyo, at right, c. 1925. Below, very large 21 1/2" diameter Migration pattern jar by Nampeyo, c. 1915.
Nampeyo photo source and © Frashers Fotos. Nampeyo Migration pattern jar photo and © Addison Doty.
"By traveling to the farthest extremities of the land during their four migrations, these chosen people finally came to settle on the vast arid plateau that stretches between the Colorado and Rio Grande Rivers.
Many other people today wonder why these people chose an area devoid of running water to irrigate their sparse crops. The Hopi people know that they were led here so that they would have to depend upon the scarce rainfall which they must evoke with their power and prayer, and so preserve always that knowledge and faith in their Creator who had brought them to this Fourth World after they had failed in three previous worlds.
This, they say, is their supreme title to this land, which no secular power can refute."
-Frank Waters and Oswald White Bear Fredericks, "Book of the Hopi", Viking Press, New York, 1963, pp.36
The migration pattern originated on ancient hopi Sikyatki style pottery (1375-1625 A. D.) as seen in the example above. Beginning in the14th century, Sikyatki pottery was the literal gold standard of pueblo pottery at the time and in many ways still is today. The name "Sikyatki" means "Yellow house” perhaps a reference to the magnificent yellow-colored pottery made there. Some 500 years later, late in the 19th century, inspired in part by archeological expeditions to the ancient Sikyatki village and the ancient pottery pieces being excavated there, Nampeyo and others began a Sikyatki pottery “Revival”, reviving, re-interpreting and re-invigorating some of the ancient forms and designs with new life.
The Migration pattern symbolized the ancient Hopi’s epic wandering journey around continents to find their proper place in the world to which after much passage of time they eventually came. The many repeating undulating ups and downs of the design depict the various wanderings of the Hopi clans here and there until they found their permanent place atop their high windswept lonely desert mesas in what is today known as Northern Arizona.
This selection contains three pieces in all; two round hanging pottery plaques so-called because historically these could be hung on the wall from leather thongs tied in the holes at the top of the plaque and one globular-shaped jar. All three pieces are beautifully potted and painted and traditionally fired as Nampeyo herself frequently did using very high-temperature burning Lignite coal. Further details on each individual piece follow below: