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A very early and extraordinarily rare “Ranchitos Polychrome” pottery canteen, Santa Ana Pueblo, New Mexico, c.1790-1820

On a warm summer day in say 1792 or 1804 when the ink was barely dry on the brand-new American Constitution 2,000 miles to the east in Philadelphia, a woman sat down on a blanket placed on the bare earth in a tiny Pueblo Indian village on the shores of the Rio Grande River in a Royal Spanish colony that was then known as “New Spain” and over the course of the next several days, formed, polished, painted and fired this beautiful pottery canteen.

Today, we call the tiny village where she made the canteen Santa Ana Pueblo. Santa Ana still stands in the exact same location as it did back then but today that location is located not in the old Spanish Colony of “New Spain” but in what is now known as the state of “New Mexico” in the United States of America and the canteen itself is now classified as being a “Ranchitos Polychrome” ceramic, now considered to be one of the very rarest historic pottery types known in the American Southwest.

Ranchitos Polychrome pottery storage jar, Santa Ana Pueblo, circa 1790-1800. Private Collection.

Aerial view of Santa Ana Pueblo, Photo © by Paul Logsdon , 1982

The canteen exhibits the characteristic ruddy red clay body with the worn reddish-tan river sand temper with a

fleck of dark basalt here and there. This sand temper comes from the riverbed of the Rio Grande river and it has been used to make pottery at Santa Ana Pueblo since beginning around 1760. The sand is finely sifted and incorporated into the raw clay to strengthen the vessel’s walls.

“The Spanish gave the name Santa Ana to the Keres-speaking village of

Tamaya early in the 1600’s, following the first European settlements in the area.

Most notable among the new settlements was Santa Fe, founded in 1610.” *

After being formed with its characteristic high-domed body and widely spaced lugs, the canteen was stone-polished and slipped and painted using the characteristic bright chalky white slip of Santa Ana Pueblo and painted with a petroglyph-like deer or antelope design and some foliate leaves and some curious red curlicues. The use of

un-bordered red painted areas is a marked Santa Ana characteristic, completely unique in the Pueblo pottery world and totally indicative of a Santa Ana Pueblo origin. The asymmetrical, somewhat airy design with foliate leaves and branches is also characteristic of this early time period. Note the distinct similarities in slip color and painted designs to the large Ranchitos Polychrome jar from the same time period which is pictured below. The temper,

clay, paint and slip on this jar are the exact same as that on the canteen.

The canteen has been positively identified as “Ranchitos Polychrome” pottery dated from 1790-1820 by the

eminent historic Pueblo pottery scholar, author of numerous books and articles on the subject, longtime former Museum curator Edwin L. Wade Ph.D. and a detailed analysis of the canteen on Dr. Wade’s personal letterhead will accompany the purchase of the canteen once it is completed.

“Among the rarest of all historic Pueblo ceramics is Ranchitos Polychrome and within

that tradition the rarest ceramic form is decorative canteens and the rarest decorative style is figurative. In other words, the canteen pictured above is the rarest of the rare of the rare.”

-Edwin L. Wade, Ph.D.

Interestingly, while researching this piece we carefully reviewed all the available literature and we only

saw one other Santa Ana canteen from this time period. In their important book “The Pottery of Santa Ana Pueblo”, Museum of New Mexico Press, Santa Fe 2005, Pueblo pottery scholars Francis H. Harlow, Dwight Lanmon and Duane Anderson show around a thousand photos of various Santa Ana Pueblo ceramics through the centuries and there is just one other canteen in evidence and in a very different, more upright vertical form.

The canteen is a personal or individual-sized canteen of the type which would have been carried by someone

working in a field or out on a hunt or on a journey between villages. Larger pottery canteens were used in pueblo homes for domestic tasks. The canteen measures 6 1/2" in height, 7" in width and is 5” in depth. It is in remarkably good original condition especially considering its 200-230 years of age. There is a certain amount of abrasion wear to the painted design and a small chip on the spout but there are no significant cracks, no major chips and no restoration and overpaint evident under Ultra-violet light examination.

We should all look this good at two centuries plus years of age. There is also an unidentified numeric code

“Z-87” on the canteen’s bottom in what appears to be India ink. This could be an old museum or expedition or private collection number, possibly from the Smithsonian’s Stevenson Expedition which is known to have collected artifacts at Santa Ana Pueblo in 1879.

That this particular piece is among the rarest of the rare is abundantly clear. this beautiful canteen is

a clear and poignant reminder of the long arc of Pueblo civilization and Native American history in the Southwest.

This is a literally once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire one of the rarest and most significant examples

of early Southwestern Pueblo pottery in existence.

Price $5,400

Inquire                                                                    Purchase

*Quotation and historic photo source and © “The Pottery of Santa Ana Pueblo”, Museum of New Mexico Press, Santa Fe, 2005