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A beautiful Hopi polychrome pottery

bowl by Nampeyo of Hano, c.1900

This bowl is a marvel of simultaneous simplicity and complexity; what seems at first to appear to be a fairly simple composition of geometric forms on closer examination very quickly becomes increasingly complex with a variety of smaller interconnected individual compositions inside the larger one and unusual and repeated uses of positive and negative spaces. Begin at Nampeyo’s characteristic red-painted upper one-third hemisphere and move downwards to

a fascinating horizontal panel of geometric and stylized feather and “Clown face” designs. From there, a large stylized pendant feather or winged motif descends downwards along the inside edge of the bowl curving inwards towards the center and also curling inside and under the rim.

There is a free-standing matched pair of what look like oars or canoe paddles floating independently at right.

The use of painted red and black or unpainted background creamy yellow color areas to accentuate or to "push and pull” various elements of the design forwards and backwards, to stand out or to recede or both at once is a simply masterful manipulation of the spatial field, the unqualified hand of the Master here in full view. Also as one would rightfully expect in such a work by Nampeyo, the potting, fine stone polishing of the surface and high-temperature Lignite coal firing with beautiful firing blushes are all superbly done.

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Nampeyo painting a bowl with a similar pendant feather motif, c. 1890

Photo Source and © National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution

The bowl has been definitively authenticated as being Nampeyo’s work and dated to 1900 by the distinguished Nampeyo pottery expert, author and longtime former Museum curator, Edwin L. Wade Ph.D. who is today the world’s pre-eminent authority on Nampeyo’s work in particular and historic Hopi pottery in general. The signed original copy of Dr. Wade’s written remarks on his personal letterhead, remarks which are quoted in full below, will accompany the purchase of the bowl. 

“Here is a classic Nampeyo bowl composition illustrating her favored 1/3rd - 2/3rd internal division

of the vessel’s basin into two distinct design fields. As shown here, the smaller field typically is

painted a solid red; the larger field contains a curvilinear wing form with internal geometric motifs.

A beautifully executed composition which is a hallmark of her singular talent, c. 1900.”

-Edwin L. Wade 

The bowl measures a medium-sized 7 1/2” in diameter and is 2 3/4” in height. It is in excellent original condition overall with no cracks and no significant chips. There is no restoration or overpainting anywhere in evidence under thorough UV-light examination. There is the tiniest, almost imperceptible 1/8” spot of what appears to be a clear glue on the rim of the bowl. We have no idea why this might be there, but it is of no consequence, in our view. Also the rim of the bowl in profile all the way around is just very slightly irregular in height, but of course, this is a century plus old pottery piece made completely by the human hand, not by a machine. It is also important to note the remarkable texture and feel of the bottom of the bowl, it’s as smooth and satiny as a newborn baby’s bottom.

This historic bowl is a marvelous, easy to display and extremely satisfying to contemplate masterful piece by the finest known Hopi pottery maker in recorded history.

Price $2,150

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