Jar (Olla) with Feathers and Avanyu

Maria Martinez1930/1943

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Houston, United States

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.


  • Title: Jar (Olla) with Feathers and Avanyu
  • Creator: Maria Martinez
  • Creator Lifespan: 1887 - 1980
  • Creator Nationality: Native American, San Ildefonso
  • Creator Gender: Female
  • Date Created: 1930/1943
  • Physical Dimensions: w47.3 x h36.2 cm (overall)
  • Type: Ceramics
  • External Link: MFAH
  • Medium: Earthenware with slip
  • Credit Line: The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, gift of Miss Ima Hogg

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