Maria and Julian Martinez were famous and innovative potters of the Southwest. Their beautifully rounded Black-on-Black Jar features the undulating bodies of avanyu, a mythical water serpent.
Both Maria and her husband, Julian, were born in the pueblo of San Ildefonso in New Mexico. A highly regarded center for Southwest American pottery, San Ildefonso is known for its painted figures and contrasting matte-on-polished surfaces.
Maria molded pots, and Julian painted the decorations. Working with archaeologists studying ancient pottery, the Martinezes were inspired to revive and revitalize traditional motifs. Julian developed a clay-based paint that remains matte (flat) when fired in a kiln, and as a result he was able to re-create the technique known as black-on-black pottery. The contrast of highly polished and flat surfaces gives this pottery dramatic impact. Julian rarely repeated decorative motifs except for his famous avanyu.