This summer, we are asking museums and galleries to select a piece on display and give us a closer look at it.
This week, Arizona State Museum’s Darlene F. Lizarraga zeroes in a piece in the museum’s extensive ceramic collection.
Artist: ASM has 30-plus ceramic works known to have been made by, or convincingly attributed to, the Hopi-Tewa potter Nampeyo (1860?-1942). Since Nampeyo never signed her pieces, the task of positively identifying her work is daunting. Some pottery in the collection has been labeled with Nampeyo’s name, either by a family member or a trader/collector. With her fame as a potter came a strong incentive for collectors and dealers to identify Hopi pottery as having been made by her. Photographs depicting her with examples of her bowls and jars can be of assistance in helping to authenticate a given piece, but photographers may have included pottery that she did not make. To complicate matters, as her eyesight faded, Nampeyo’s daughters, Annie, Fannie and Nellie, granddaughters Rachel and Daisy, clan niece Lena Charlie, and perhaps others, painted the vessels she produced.
This immense, high-shouldered vessel with a rare, squared rim may well have been made with the assistance of a relative. It bears a gummed label from the Fred Harvey Company that reads, “Made by Nampeyo-Hopi.”
The art: Polychrome earthenware jar by Nampeyo, Hopi-Tewa, ca. 1920s. Height 13.19-inches, maximum diameter 19.29-inches, Catalog No. GP52543.
What makes the piece significant: This unique, square-mouthed jar came to the Arizona State Museum in 1950, as a transfer from the defunct Gila Pueblo Archaeological Foundation in Globe, Arizona. Described as a “Polychrome jar, Hopi, Square top, made by Nampeyo,” this is the only piece in the ASM Nampeyo collection that has the Harvey Company label.
What demands a closer look: This jar broke post-firing and was repaired in a traditional fashion by drilling holes on either side of the break and binding the sides with sinew.
Anything else we should know: Nampeyo is famous for her Sikyatki-revival style pottery. Sikyatki is the name of a large ancient Hopi village on the east flank of First Mesa that was depopulated about AD1500. The ancient pottery from Sikyatki and other ancestral Hopi sites served as an inspiration for Nampeyo’s designs.
Where to see it: Arizona State Museum on the University of Arizona campus. 1013 E. University Boulevard. Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays – Saturdays. Admission is $8, with discounts available. statemuseum.arizona.edu, 621-6302.