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Fannie Polacca Nampeyo (1900-1987) circa 1975

Photo source and © Wikipedia

Annie Healing Nampeyo (1884-1968) circa 1905

Photo source and © Wikipedia

A beautiful historic Hopi polychrome pottery jar

with four large stylized bird pictorials, possibly by Annie Healing Nampeyo or Fannie Polacca Nampeyo, c.1920’s

THIS DRAMATIC JAR is a total stunner; big, bold and extremely beautiful. This piece is the product of the talented mind and hands of a Hopi potter who really knew her business; the shape is excellent, the design powerful and dynamic, the painting confident and assured and the polishing near perfection.

All these characteristics plus the particulars of the design scheme itself; the uniquely square-bordered neck of the vessel and the corresponding vertical division of the design field into a four-part, symmetrical layout composed of two matched and opposing pairs of painted designs all point decisively in the direction of the renowned Nampeyo family and specifically to Nampeyo’s very talented oldest and youngest daughters, Annie Healing Nampeyo (1884-1968) and Fannie Polacca Nampeyo (1900-1987) both of whom were outstanding potters in their own right in addition to assisting their brilliant mother at various times. We showed this jar to the esteemed Hopi pottery expert, Dr. Edwin L. Wade, longtime former museum curator and author on the subject of historic Hopi pottery and he agreed completely, he just was not certain which of the two Nampeyo daughters in particular had made it.

The jar measures a very impressive 11” in diameter and it is 8” in height. The jar’s lovely globular shape makes it seem even larger than its measurements would indicate and so too do the painted bird designs which stretch all the way from the top to the bottom of the jar giving the impression of pushing the jar outward and imparting a great sense of motion and action to the piece. The four bird’s heads are particularly well-depicted perched atop and turned in profile to their stylized bodies.

Additionally, there is also some evidence of this jar having actually been used as an olla, or water jar, in the Pueblo. There is some residue in the bottom of the jar’s interior and some evidence of old water seepage through the lower vessel walls. This is a completely normal indication of indigenous use and should also be left alone, in our opinion. Over the years, we have been fortunate to have played a part in assembling several significant Hopi pottery collections, some pieces of which are now prominently featured in major museums such as The Art Institute of Chicago and Scottsdale’s Museum of the West. In the process of doing this, we have handled quite a few beautiful and significant vessels; this particular piece taken in the context of when it was made and by whom, in our view, can hold its own with any of them in terms of its originality, its beauty and its overall very powerful visual impact.


“This is a circa 1920’s jar and possibly by Annie Nampeyo judging from the

shaping of the bird heads and H-shaped eye. Daubing is done in stacked rows as Fannie Nampeyo favored. Vessel shape is excellent and well polished.”

-Edwin L. Wade Ph.D.

Nampeyo pottery scholar and author

The designs overall are remarkable rich and complex; an incredible feat of artistry and technical virtuosity especially when you consider that they were created straight out of the potter’s imagination and painted directly onto the vessel using no templates or preliminary drawings at all. The jar is in extremely good original condition overall particularly for its almost a century of age. There is no restoration or overpainting in evidence under UV-light examination. There are only a few small areas of damage; there is a slight crack extending downwards from the rim for about an inch and a quarter and there are two little spots of abrasion damage to the mid-body of the jar, one measuring about 1” by 1”, the other about 1/2” by 1/2”. In our view, none of these damages are consequential and we would leave them entirely alone, but, if desired, a professional pottery restorer could easily repair these for around $250-350.

There is an unknown collection or inventory number written on the bottom.