FIGURE 1. This is a very fine Zuni pottery polychrome olla. It is very good sized, 9 ½” tall by 13” in diameter. For want of a better term this jar has a very strong, a significant presence and while it is in very fine, unrestored condition, there is enough sign of normal ethnic wear to give it that warmth that comes specifically from pueblo home use.
The dark brown painted rim, existence of the puki (a Tewa word meaning a tray or mold in which the base of a pot is placed during pot construction) impression on the bottom, and the high somewhat flattened shoulder would seem to place this fine jar in the 1880’s using some of the criteria in Jonathan Batkin’s classic work “Pottery of the Pueblos of New Mexico, 1700-1940”.
This olla has many traditional Zuni design features including a rather understated rainbird, a well drawn and painted central medallion, and a series of small birds parading around the mid-body which perfectly draws attention to the jar’s ample size. There is cross hatching, a stylized arrow and a number of other design elements in the neck with double framing lines separating the neck from the mid-body. The red color in the medallion, birds and some geometrics is rich and satisfying drawing the eye, but not overdone.
Of course, early work like this is never signed at Zuni so the artist remains unknown to us. But we can be grateful; this is the work of a master potter; a lovely historic olla in wonderful original condition.