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Polychrome Bowl

A work made of ceramic and pigment.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of ceramic and pigment.


c. 1890


Probably We’wha (Zuni Donashi:kew Clan and Bichi:kwe Clan, c. 1848-1896)
Pueblo of Zuni, New Mexico

About this artwork

Toward the end of the nineteenth century, an artistic renewal occurred throughout the Southwest as centuries-old styles and techniques were recast in response to increasing public interest in Native American art and culture. Potters from several pueblos, or towns, developed innovative vessel shapes and designs by adapting and adding to the achievements of their ancestors. The styles and symbolic forms expressed each com-munity’s particular historical identity and sense of place. The interior of this bowl is filled with a large, X-shaped symbol with arms emerging from a crosshatched diamond—a reference to the four sacred directions of the Zuñi world. The red, hooked motifs between the arms represent pahos, prayer sticks with attached feathers that were placed at sacred locations to petition for rain. On the exterior, zigzag lines flanked by red and black triangles signify lightning and rainfall. Many features of this vessel are characteristic of ceramics made by We’wah, one of the most renowned Zuñi artists, who held a special status within his community as one of their lhamanas. These highly respected individuals typically were born male but followed traditional female gender roles, including pottery making and weaving, and served as mediators with special ceremonial and spiritual responsibilities.


On View, Gallery 136


Arts of the Americas






Polychrome Bowl


New Mexico (Object made in), United States (Object made in), Zuni Tribe of the Zuni Reservation, New Mexico (Object made in)




Ceramic and pigment


Sticker affixed bottom, inscribed: "ZUNI/TURN OF CENTURY/PPHDXXCOL/NO.983".


16.5 × 42 cm (6 1/2 × 16 1/2 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of Charles and Marjorie Benton

Reference Number


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Extended information about this artwork

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