Black-on-black jar with geometric designs


Julian Martinez ( American, 1885 - 1943 )


María Martinez ( San Ildefonso, American, 1887 - 1980 )

San Ildefonso Pueblo
c. 1920
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General Description

This black-on-black jar by famed Pueblo artist Maria Martinez combines ancient Indian symbolism and ceramic techniques with a sleek austerity akin to 20th-century American design aesthetics. Martinez began experimenting with blackware following a commission from archaeologists to re-create ancient Indian pottery excavated near San Ildefonso, New Mexico. Working with members of her family, here her husband, Julian, Martinez spent seventy years practicing early firing processes and perfecting hew own iconic polished designs set within a matte band and a polished background.

This impressive blackware jar has a wide lip that slopes outward through the neck and shoulder of the vessel. From the prominent shoulder, the jar tapers elegantly back to rest on a narrow base. Only the upper zones of the vessel bear decoration, utilizing the black-on-black painting technique developed by Julian Martinez between 1919 and 1921. The burnished black surface, which provides an impressive sheen to the vessel, is visually contrasted by textured surfaces resulting from applied slip paints. The contrasting textures form bold geometric or abstract patterns around the wide prominent neck of the jar, capturing and reflecting light in complementary opposition. The designs feature broad diamonds, zigzags, and swirls. Two parallel bands—one formed by a solid painted surface and the other by evenly-spaced squares—encircle the shoulder of the vessel, framing the painted surface. This necklace jar with its fluid contour was a common form made by Maria throughout her career. Over her lifetime, Martinez's exemplary craftsmanship became an emblem for Pueblo artistry and cultural heritage.

Adapted from

  • Kimberly L. Jones, PhD, Label text, 2017, A. H. Meadows Galleries.

  • Kimberly L. Jones, PhD, DMA unpublished material.