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An exquisitely formed and painted large

Zuni Pueblo pottery “Deer” jar attributed to Tsayutitsa, c. 1920’s-30’s

Three of the greatest and most significant Pueblo potters of the 20th Century in our view and in that of many distinguished Pueblo pottery scholars were the great Hopi Matriarch, Nampeyo of Hano (1858-1942), the iconic San Ildefonso, New Mexico Pueblo potter, Maria Martinez (1887-1980) and the exceptional Zuni Pueblo, New Mexico pottery master, Tsayutitsa (1871-1959) all of whom are pictured below.

Of these distinguished artists, Tsayutitsa is perhaps the least well known (as well undoubtedly being the one with the most difficult name to pronounce), likely due mostly to Zuni Pueblo’s fairly remote and relatively isolated location and also to the fact that Tsayutitsa rarely traveled and worked very closely for most of her career with a single nearby local area Indian trader, the renowned Zuni, New Mexico trading impressario, Charles Garrett (C.G.) Wallace, (1898-1992). From the 1920’s through the 1940’s, Tsayutitsa was Wallace’s “go-to” potter to whom he turned to satisfy his high-end clientele’s desire for the finest Zuni pottery pieces. Her vessel forms, as in this jar, were magnificent and most beautifully-shaped, like large airy, very thin-walled bubbles with distinct flexures at the top and bottom of the bulbous mid-body as can be seen here.

Charles Garrett (C.G.) Wallace, c. 1960.

Photo source © Gene Cain.

From left to right, Nampeyo of Hano, Tsayutitsa, Maria Martinez, c. 1930's.

Left photo source and © "Nampeyo and Her Pottery" by Barbara Kramer, University of New Mexico Press, 1996. Center photo source and © "The Pottery of Zuni Pueblo", Dwight P. Lanmon and Francis H. Harlow, Museum of New Mexico Press, 2008. Right photo source and © Palace of the Governors Photo Archives.

At left, another Zuni Pueblo pottery "deer" jar by Tsayutitsa which we formerly owned and sold in 2013. This jar had an unusual “signature” of "Zuni 1935 NM" painted on its interior in the same red paint that the jar’s exterior design was painted. This signature was very likely put there by Tsayutitsa herself at the request of Zuni Indian trader, C.G Wallace for a judging competition such as the Gallup Ceremonial or for some other identification purpose.

As can be seen in the photos above, the renditions of the deer figures and the deer “houses” in these two jars are virtually identical as are other details, including the pronounced top neck and bottom puki flexures, this vessel walls, rich, white beauitfully-polished and finely crazed kaolin slip and the particular red paint color used in both of the jar’s painted designs.

“Tsayutitsa was a great potter and a great painter, making her in my opinion, one of the best, if not the best potter of all time.”

-Robert V. Gallegos, New Mexico Pueblo pottery authority

This noticeably pronounced neck flexure at the top of the jar's mid-body and the additional puki start flexure at the bottom of the mid-body are consistent features of Tsayutitsa jars as observed and mentioned by historic Pueblo pottery scholars, Dwight P. Lanmon, Francis H. Harlow and Edwin L. Wade below. The use of such flexures is an interesting throwback holdover of sorts from the earlier Zuni pottery type of Kiapkwa Polychrome (1740-1860). Additionally, Tsayutitsa’s painting was always most exquisitely accomplished with numerous fine subtle detailing touches and creatively unique use of space and manipulation of striking design arrangements that set her work distinctly apart from that of other Zuni potters.

“Tsayutitsa’s vessels are characterized by bulbous, bubble-like bodies with a sharp upperbody flexure from which a short conical neck arises. A heavy white kaolin slip was applied to the clay body and meticulously stone polished.

The result is a creamy, lustrous finish that is finely crazed.  The vessels are thin-walled and the painting is richly-colored, extremely precise, and refined. To personally own one of her vessels is a rare privilege as she is deserving of a hallowed place within any collection."

-Pueblo pottery authority, Edwin L. Wade, Ph.D.

The double deer "houses" or enclosures painted on this jar (four deer figures on each side instead of the more common two) are a nice example of this as is the more pronounced square-ish shape and rendering of the "houses" themselves and the unique encircling row of diamond-shaped motifs under and between the deer pairs. The usual Zuni pottery treatment for this hemispherical dividing line is to use a row of continuous bird forms or a row of interlocking crescent-shaped motifs.

The deliberately oversized dramatic round medallions are another distinct Tsayutitsa design touch as are the stylized kachina masks on the neck and geometric precise framing lines. A certain distinctively orange-ish red color of the red paint on the jar is another Tsauytitsa telltale. Earlier Zuni pottery vessels often have a darker red color and later ones a more pronounced orange.

"The quality of potting and the presence of puki flexure and a ridge at the shoulder suggest that attributing to Tsayutitsa is reasonable."

-Dwight P. Lanmon and Francis H. Harlow in "The Pottery of Zuni Pueblo", Museum of New Mexico Press, 2008, pp.519.

The jar measures a very impressively-sized 14” in diameter and is 9 1/2” in height. It is in generally excellent original condition with some areas of slight abrasion, exfoliation and light discoloration to the shoulder and a certain degree of rim wear. A thorough examination of the vessel under Ultraviolet light reveals no evidence of restoration or overpainting anywhere on the vessel. For a larger-sized century-old plus Pueblo pottery vessel this jar is in remarkable shape.

This is an outstanding and historic jar in every respect, from the brilliantly inspired mind and extremely skilled hands

of one of America’s finest and most accomplished historic Native American artists.