Jar (Olla) with Feathers and Avanyu

Maria Martinez1930/1943

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

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.

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  • Title: Jar (Olla) with Feathers and Avanyu
  • Creator: Maria Martinez
  • 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