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Arts of North America

Art created in North America includes objects made by native cultures of the present-day United States and Canada; paintings and decorative arts produced during colonial times; 18th- and 19th-century masterpieces; and the work of contemporary artists and photographers.

San Ildefonso Pueblo, New Mexico, 1887 - 1980
San Ildefonso Pueblo, New Mexico, 1885 - 1943
Black-on-Black Jar

14 1/4 x 18 5/8 inches

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Gift of Miss Ima Hogg

Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, & the Americas

Arts of North America

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.