A Hopi polychrome bowl, Nampeyo
Lot 5070
A Hopi polychrome bowl, Nampeyo
Sold for US$ 11,352 inc. premium
Lot Details
Property of various owners
A Hopi polychrome bowl
Attributed to Nampeyo, on a rounded base, the interior depicting a stylized bird in profile, the circular quartered midsection worked in a checkered and dotted effect, the face similarly rendered, a pair of corn stalks flank the animal, trios of dots about the rim, a raised lug for hanging at top.
height 2 3/4in, diameter 8 1/2in


  • Provenance:
    Paul Peralta-Ramos, Taos

    The attribution to Nampeyo is made by Edwin Wade in an expertise (abridged here) that accompanies this lot.

    A Significant Polacca Polychrome Figurative Bowl
    by Nampeyo of Hano, circa 1895

    Before 1885, figurative motifs of animals, and particularly of humans and supernaturals, were rarely applied to Hopi utilitarian pottery. Images of these beings were confined to the sacred iconography of painted Kiva murals and symbolic altarpieces...

    All this would change by the close of the 19th century owing to the influence of Indian trader Thomas Keam, who introduced commercialization into the pottery arts of the Hopi. The transcontinental railroad supplied a steady market for tourist souvenirs, and Keam shrewdly understood the appeal of exotic figurative designs.

    This wonderfully expressive bowl is a consummate example of the liberated aesthetic that resulted, when potters were unexpectedly freed from the dictates and constraints of historic tradition and encouraged to explored a vibrant new genre.

    In addition to its visual appeal. the bowl technically is a masterwork of the often-denigrated Polacca Polychrome (AD. 1780 – 1900) tradition of Hopi ceramics. Much of the pottery dating to the last quarter of the 19th century was crudely made, with malformed shapes and scabrous kaolin-slipped surfaces. This bowl, however, is perfectly formed, with a meticulously applied slip and vibrant thick pigments...

    The mixing and interplay of prehistoric motifs within innovative new compositions seen in this vessel is a hallmark of Nampeyo, and a number of her documented Polacca vessels exhibit this genius. Early on, she favored figurative designs, and particularly birds, as evident in noted examples in the collections of the Museum of Northern Arizona, the California Academy of Science, Tulane University and elsewhere. There is a tile by Nampeyo (CAS 1987-0003-0069) collected between 1904 and 1906 with a similarly composed bird in the California Academy’s collection. Also, in a private collection of tiles there is a documented Polacca Nampeyo (affixed with a partial black label of the Fred Harvey Company reading “From the Hop --- Nam---”), painted with nearly an exact same bird head.

    Another distinguishing Nampeyo trait seen in this composition and often evident in her figurative designs is the vertical or horizontal bisection of the creature.

    More subjectively, the design has the “feel” of Nampeyo in its boldness of composition and exuberance. One can imagine a perky robin perched atop a cornstalk surveying his domain.

    Incidentally, the collection history of this bowl lends further credence to its likelihood of being an early Nampeyo. Prior to possession by its current owner, it was in the collection of Paul Peralta-Ramos, who owned another documented Nampeyo jar originally collected by William Haskell Simpson, General Advertising Agent for the Santa Fe Railroad. Simpson was celebrated for his creation of the “Santa Fe Style” and his superior eye in acquiring superlative Native American artworks. This delightful and original work is in keeping with that reputation.

    Edwin L. Wade, PHD
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