About This Artwork

Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico, United States

Polychrome Jar with Rainbow, Macaw, and Floral Motifs, 1880s

Ceramic and pigment
42.6 x 46.7 cm (16 3/4 x 18 3/8 in.)

Ethel T. Scarborough and Major Acquisitions funds; Gladys N. Anderson Endowment, 2006.749

In the American Southwest, there is an Indian ceramic tradition that began to take form in the early centuries A.D. and has continued unbroken to the present time. Characterized by its many superbly varied styles, the art has been sustained by diverse Pueblo peoples and some of their neighbors, whose ancient and more recent settlements have long been established in the arid regions of Arizona and New Mexico. Ceramic artist of the Ácoma Pueblo, west of Albuquerque, produced an especially distinguished series of vessels during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

This large, rounded, and beautifully proportioned vessel is covered by exuberant, colorful figures representing macaws and other birds, double rainbows, flowers, and plants. The fluid, lively pattern breaks from the disciplined, abstract symmetry that widely prevails in Puebloan tradition, possibly reflecting the influence of designs from Mexico or perhaps the printed or embroidered textiles from the eastern United States that reached New Mexico beginning in the mid-nineteenth century. Nevertheless, traditional indigenous perceptions remained in play, for macaws have been featured for centuries in Puebloan rituals devoted to the sun, rain, and agricultural fertility, as shown in corresponding ceramic and mural imagery. In this context the rainbows, flowers, and the sense of thriving life also faithfully adhere to an ancient and ongoing theme of communal participation in nature's eternal renewal.

— Revised from Richard Townsend, Notable Acquisitions at the Art Institute of Chicago, Museum Studies 34, 1 (2008), pp. 8-9.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

Art Institute of Chicago, The Native American Heritage: A Survey of North American Indian Art, 1977, July 16–Oct. 30, 1977, cat., pp. 232–233, no. 331 (ill.).

Scottsdale Center for the Arts, With Beauty All Around Me: The Art of the Native Southwest, Feb. 20-Apr. 26, 1998, cat. pg. 83.

Denver Public Library, Pueblo Treasure from the Silverman Museum, 2005, cat. 24 and 25, pp. 62-65.

Publication History

Ralph W. Andrews. 1965. Photographers of the Frontier West: Their Lives and Works 1875 to 1915 (Superior Publishing, Seattle), pp. 168–178 (ill.).

Richard Howard, “A Magnificent Acoma Pot,” American Indian Art Magazine 1, 2 (Spring, 1976), pp. 16–19 (ill.).

Jerry Jacka and Spencer Gil. 1976. Pottery Treasures (Graphic Arts Center Publishing Co., Portland), pg. 17 (ill.).

Evan M. Mauer. 1977. The Native American Heritage: A Survey of North American Indian Art, exh. cat. (Art Institute of Chicago), pp. 232–233, cat. 331 (ill.).

David L. Arnold, “Pueblo Pottery: 2,000 years of Artistry,” National Geographic Magazine (November, 1982), 162, 5, pp. 593–605 (ill.)

Ron McCoy with Martin Sullivan and Nathan Youngblood. 1998. With Beauty All Around Me: Art of the Native Southwest, exh. cat. (Scottsdale Center for the Arts), pg. 83 (ill.).

Francis Harlow and Jack Silverman. 2001. Pueblo Indian Pottery: A Portfolio of Archival Studies by Jack Silverman (Silverman Museum), figs. 24 and 25.

Jack Silverman and Francis Harlow. 2005. Pueblo Treasure from the Silverman Museum, exh. cat. (Silverman Museum and Denver Public Library), pp. 14, 62-65, 133 (ill.).

Richard F. Townsend and Kathleen Bickford Berzock, “The Art Institute of Chicago New Galleries,” in Tribal Arts XVI-1/62 (Winter 2011), pg. 63, fig. 9 (ill.).

Dwight P. Lanmon and Francis H. Harlow. 2013. The Pottery of Acoma Pueblo (Museum of Mexico Press), pp. 282-285, Fig. 17.19).

Richard Townsend with Elizabeth Pope. 2016. Indian Art of the Americas at the Art Institute of Chicago. Art Institute of Chicago and Yale University Press, pg. 69, cat. 38 (ill.).

Ownership History

Purchased from the artist by Henry G. Peabody (died 1951), Seattle, Wash. and Pasadena, Calif., from between 1898 and 1902 [documentation in curatorial file]. Richard M. Howard, Santa Fe, N. Mex., by 1976 to at least 1998. Raymond Dewey, Santa Fe, N. Mex. (Dewey Galleries) [personal communication, Jack Silverman]; Jack Silverman, Silverman Museum Collection, Aspen, Colo. and Santa Fe, N. Mex., by 2001; sold, Bonhams and Butterfields, San Francisco, Calif., Dec. 4, 2006, sale ETH06122SF-14804, lot 4008, to the Art Institute.

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