Ancestral Pueblo: Greater Upper Rio Grande ValleyNorthern Rio GrandeGreater Tewa Basin (Northern Tewa)Northern Rio Grande Historic Bichrome - Polychrome WareSan Ildefonso Polychrome - Black-on-red

Type Name: San Ildefonso Polychrome - Black-on-red

Period: 1880 A.D. - 1930 A.D.
Culture: Ancestral Pueblo: Greater Upper Rio Grande Valley
Branch: Northern Rio Grande
Tradition: Greater Tewa Basin (Northern Tewa)
Ware: Northern Rio Grande Historic Bichrome - Polychrome Ware

First posted by C Dean Wilson 2014

Among the first detailed and systematic description of San Ildefonso Polychrome were those by Guthe (1925) based on field studies at San Ildefonso Pueblo and by Chapman (1938) based on his examinations of large vessel collections from the Indian Arts Fund collections. Pottery exhibiting characteristics used to define this type was first produced during the late nineteenth century for the tourist trade. This type was originally almost exclusively defined by whole vessels from various private and museum collection (Batkin 1987; Chapman 1970; Frank and Harlow 1987; Harlow 1970; 1973).

Given the short period of production of this type, the occurrence of this type in archaeological contexts may be a useful indicter of components dating to the late nineteenth to early twentieth century. The widespread introduction of true polychrome designs black and red paint began just early enough to be the last decorated types to be commonly used in San Ildefonso households, and was produced long enough to spur a new sales-oriented tourist industry, and then declined as new techniques, such as those reflected in decorated black ware became popular (Harlow 1970).

Temper is a fine tuff, and paste tends to be thick, soft, and porous indicative of forms commonly produced for the tourist market rather than domestic use. Vessel forms are largely limited to jars although rare examples of bowl forms have been noted. Surfaces are well polished and tend to be gray, tan, and covered with buff to white slips. Examples made after 1910 may exhibit a Cochiti slip that is gritty and striated from rag polishing (Guthe 1936). The most distinctive characteristic of this type is reflected by the revival of true forms with decorations in both black organic and red mineral pigment.

As is the case for preceding forms, the rim is still commonly covered with a thin line in red slip although a shift to black-painted rim lines seems to have occurred at about 1910. The mid-body bulge displays designs distinct from the upper body. Early forms of this type seem to reflect styles borrowed from Powhoge Polychrome produced during earlier periods. These include repeated elements linked together into bands, but arrangements made possible by the repeated use of two colors became more complicated through time. This included the continuation of the repetition of motifs but with alterations of details of designs executed in red and black (Chapman 1970). Motifs are built out of geometric shapes that combine straight and curvilinear elements into complex and fluid forms. A few examples seem to represent purely geometric forms where combinations of opposing triangles, squares, diamonds, circles, scrolls, and elliptical shapes are often used to produce intricate patterns red, black, and light negative shapes. Other geometric designs are combined to form stylized cloud, shrine, shield, claw, mountain, feather, leaf, flower, animal, and bird motifs. The wide range of expressions of these elements reflects a remarkable artistic accomplishment showing a high level of execution and creativity that is difficult to describe and can only be fully appreciated through the examination of actual examples including a remarkable series of plates created by Chapman (1970).

San Ildefonso Black-on-red reflects similar forms that began to be produced at the same time as San Ildefonso Polychrome and exhibits similar pastes and styles (Harlow 1973). It is distinguished from contemporaneous forms produced at San Ildefonso Pueblo by decorations solely in a black organic paint over a red slip.

Batkin, Jonathan
1987 Pottery of the Pueblos of New Mexico, 1700 to 1900. Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Colorado Springs.

Chapman, Kenneth
1938 The Pueblo Indian Pottery of the Post Spanish Period. General Series Bulletin No. 4, Laboratory of Anthropology of Anthropology, Santa Fe.

1970 The Pottery of San Ildefonso Pueblo. University of New Mexico Press, Santa Fe.

Frank, Larry and Francis H. Harlow
1990 Historic Pottery of the Pueblo Indians 1600-1880. Schiffer Publishing, Ltd., West Chester.

Guthe, Carl E
1925 Pueblo Pottery Making, Yale University Press, New Haven.

Harlow, Francis H.

1970 History of Painted Tewa Pottery. In The Pottery of San Ildefonso Pueblo, by K Chapman, pp 37-51, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.

1973 Matte Paint Pottery of the Tewa, Keres, and Zuni Pueblos. Museum of New Mexico, Santa Fe.

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San Ildefonso Black-on-red bowl

San Ildefonso Black-on-red jar