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A magnificent historic Zuni polychrome

pottery dough bowl by Tsayutitsa with a unique

Hopi “man-eagle” design, c.1915-1920

With a scholarly attribution essay by Dr. Edwin L. Wade

JUST WHEN YOU THINK YOU’VE SEEN IT ALL, along comes something that blows that thought completely away.

And this bowl is the perfect proof of that proposition. In our 35-plus years of experience in the field, we have NEVER seen anything like this piece before and the esteemed historic Pueblo pottery authority, former museum curator and author, Edwin L. Wade Ph.D. agrees with this completely stating definitively in a detailed telephone discussion recently that in his four-plus decades of experience working with historic Pueblo pottery he has never seen anything like this bowl either. Dr. Wade believes for a number of reasons which we will detail in the following paragraphs that this unique piece was made by a particular person in a particular place at a particular time as a special commission or by special request for another particular person who would be the famed Zuni Pueblo Indian trader, Charles Garrett (C.G.) Wallace (1898-1993).

“An amazing Zuni bowl which shows how little we all know and the true influence

of  Nampeyo and Fewkes on other Pueblo potters.”


                                                                                                                           -Edwin L. Wade, Ph.D.

C. G. Wallace was the leading Indian trader of his day with a distinguished high-end clientele to whom he sold the finest pieces of Native art created by his wide-ranging stable of talented Native American artists, among them were the finest jewelers, stone carvers and pottery-makers of the day; Leekya Deyuse, Austin Wilson, Teddy Weahkee, Leo Poblano, John Gordon Leak, Roger Skeet Sr. and headlining the pottery-making department the great Zuni potter, Tsayutitsa. Tsayutitsa was one of the very finest, if not the finest Zuni Pueblo potters of her time or any time, her vessels are most beautifully shaped and finely formed, often quite large, always graceful and thin-walled, her painting precise to a fault, her artistry sublime. It is for all these reasons and several others that Tsayutitsa was C.G. Wallace’s favorite Zuni potter and this bowl is a product of her talented hands.

The Hopi “Man-Eagle” pottery design as depicted in Jesse Walter Fewkes’  Bureau of American Ethnology report on his 1895-96 archaeological excavations at the ancient Hopi village of Sikyatki.

Variations of the Hopi “Man-Eagle” design by Nampeyo of Hano made circa 1900-1915

Charles Garrett (C.G.) Wallace

Tsayutitsa making pottery at Zuni Pueblo, c. 1920’s

Photo source and © “The Pottery of Zuni Pueblo”, Lanmon and Harlow, Museum of New Mexico Press, 2008.

“The piece was made by the famous Zuni potter Tsayutitsa c. 1915 and features in the center of the bowl the famous Sikyatki composition that Fewkes illustrated in his 1895 BAE Report on his archeological excavations in that ancient village. So how could this have happened, did Tsayutisa see a Nampeyo bowl or did the trader C.G. Wallace, for whom she  worked, show her Fewkes’ Sikyatki pottery book and commission her for her interpretation? An outstanding art work demonstrating the true importance of Hopi art in the history of Pueblo ceramics”.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   -Edwin L. Wade, Ph.D.

All of which brings us to the central questions here: How did such a distinctly and remarkably Hopi pottery design become the centerpiece of this magnificent Zuni bowl made by a very talented Zuni potter who almost certainly never left the environs of Zuni Pueblo for the duration of her entire life? Did Tsayutitsa somehow see a Nampeyo or other Hopi pottery bowl with this design at C.G. Wallace’s trading post or elsewhere at Zuni? The Zuni and Hopi have related clans and have historically often travelled between each others Pueblos and prominent Hopi potters such as Nampeyo’s second daughter, Nellie, have married Zuni men and moved to Zuni or lived there for a time.

Did Nellie happen to show one of her Mother’s bowls to Tsayutitsa? Or most likely did C.G. Wallace show Tsayutitsa the “Man-Eagle” image below from Fewkes’ Sikyatki report? We will never know the answer definitively, but we are certainly well inside the ballpark here with the troika of Fewkes, Nampeyo and Wallace being responsible for Tsayutitsa seeing this image, but it is Tsayutitsa herself who in essence sees the bet here and raises it considerably since her 20th century depiction of this ancient Hopi design is simply spectacular, a more complex and gorgeously painted version than either that in Fewkes’ or many of those of Nampeyo with incredibly fine detailing and multiple “power rays” emanating from the figure. Moreover, the way she masterfully integrated this iconic Hopi design into a bowl along with her own various depictions of traditional and uniquely Zuni designs such as the rainbird and heartline deer is a seamless and wonderful artistic blending of significant cultural iconography.

However, as beautiful and remarkable as most of this bowl is, it is the incredibly well-rendered and highly-detailed center design of the bowl which is its most striking and mysterious feature. This design is the so-called Hopi “Man Eagle” design first called to public attention by the prominent American archaeologist and Ethnologist Jesse Walter Fewkes (1850-1930) whose report of his 1895-96 excavations at the ancient Hopi village of Sikyatki or “Yellow House” caused an academic and cultural sensation uncovering and highlighting for the first time publicly and widely under the auspices of the prestigious Bureau of American Ethnology division of The smithsonian Institution the magnificent Hopi pottery of Sikyatki which is now widely considered to be the finest form of pottery ever created on the North American continent. Fewkes’ “Sikyatki and its Pottery” report was a sensation on many different levels.

“Sikyatki Polychrome” type pottery (1375-1625 A.D.) and its associated ceramic types have incredibly dramatic and swooping vessel forms and often contain astounding and impossibly complex and beautifully rendered abstract designs. Many of the symbols used are deeply religious in nature having to do with Hopi mythology and legend while others are highly stylized forms drawn from nature. The “discovery” and modern-day interpretation of these magnificent old pottery designs was already well underway at Hopi pioneered by the renowned potter, Nampeyo of Hano and other Hopi potters years before Fewkes’ arrival, but this rediscovery and revival nonetheless gained a great deal of steam with the wider publication and recognition of Sikyatki pottery by Fewkes’ report and the so-called “Sikyatki Revival” style of Hopi pottery became increasingly popular in the post-1895 period with an increasing amount of Hopi pottery-makers and interested buyers. Nampeyo of Hano was already at this time the foremost Hopi pottery maker of the day and it was she who made the most and creative use of her interpretations of assorted Sikyatki motifs and designs in her pottery using variations of the “Man-Eagle” design on multiple of her creations as well as other Sikyatki designs such as the “eagletail” and stylized abstracted bird, feather and floral motifs.

The bowl measures a very good-sized 15” in diameter and is is 6 1/2” in height. It is in excellent original condition

with a small amount of abrasion wear to the center of the painted design and a few small chips on the rim. There is possibly a slight crack present somewhere in the bowl which we cannot see, but can hear. There is no restoration or overpainting in evidence on the bowl under a thorough UV-light examination. The bowl has been authenticated as being Tsayutitsa’s work by the eminent Pueblo authority, scholar and former long time museum curator, Edwin L. Wade, Ph.D.  At our request, Dr. Wade is writing a scholarly essay of attribution on the bowl, small excerpts of which are quoted here. When it is completed, the signed original copy of this essay on Dr. Wade’s personal letterhead will be included with the purchase of the bowl.

So here’s your chance to own a historic Southwestern singularity; a magnificent historic ceramic which brings together two outstanding historic Pueblo pottery traditions, two outstanding historic Pueblo potters, one famous American archaeologist and one highly-enterprising and inspired Indian Trader all in one gorgeous piece. Quite a lot of history and mystery are tied up here in this one very special and significant object.

Price available upon request