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278. Canteen with rosette medallion motif (hepakinne)

Zuni Pueblo has its own unique character and language. Its clay, as evidenced in this canteen, is unique in that it generally fires to a pink color, rather than Southwest Puebloan white, gray or yellow. Also a hallmark for Zuni Pueblo pieces, since 1800 the Zuni have used a base slip color of dark brown, distinguished from traditional red bases used by other pueblos (Hayes and Blom 1996:166). As is typical of Zuni canteens, there is no decoration on the flat back of the piece beyond a dark brown slip edged with a simple undulating line of demarcation, separating the front from the back. The rosette pattern on the bulbous face is constructed as a circular motif centered against a white slip background.

Canteens are traditional Native American vessels for many groups. This particular Zuni type consists of a simple body with two handles, one straddling each side, made of minimal clay loops that parallel the shape of the vessel they frame. A cord or sash typically was tied to these handles to serve as a strap for the canteen in order to provide an ample and portable water supply for journeys beyond the pueblo. Canteens traditionally were used by men, and certain plain shapes were considered appropriate for hunting, while more elaborate forms were reserved for religious pilgrimages (Bond 1985:141). Like most canteens, this example is topped by a spout, which anthropomorphically rises like a head above the shoulders of the vessel, crowned with a brown line. The handles along the sides serve as figurative arms for the piece.

The rosette pattern that covers much of the white slip face of the canteen is another distinguishing characteristic of Zuni polychrome pottery. As with many other Zuni rosettes, which are found at times on the interior of bowls, frequently on canteens, and most often on jars, this sunburst pattern is contained within a circular configuration whose outer rim echoes the shape of the petals within, as well as the reversed curves in the line separating the front from the back of the canteen (Lanmon and Harlow 2008:167). These patterns, generally termed rosettes or sunflowers, were described to anthropologist Ruth Bunzel by Zuni potters as "hepakinne ‘sunflower'" or "painting on Salimopiya mask" (Lanmon and Harlow 2008:167). The design may be traced back to similar patterns carved into the exterior of old wooden chests from Spain and New Mexico.

This particular flower on the Zuni canteen consists of eight petals, with striped patterns framing the exterior of each, and is considered a relatively simple rosette design compared to other more elaborate and detailed examples (Lanman and Harlow 2008:167). Each petal is further separated from the next by a simple white dot design, punctuated with a brown spot at its center, which is surrounded by a dark line that emerges from the white slip base beneath the neighboring pigmented details. A similar motif of the dark spot encircled by white with a border in brown is repeated at the center of the rosette. The red background within this medallion serves to further separate the individual petals, and highlights the contrasts of the rosette pattern and the brown concentric rings that surround and accentuate it against the overall white slip setting.

Herman ten Kate, a Dutch anthropologist who visited Zuni Pueblo in the late 19th century, gave this description: "[T]he Zuni surpass all other North American tribes in the making of pottery. The form is more delicate and austere, the ornament purer, and the color lovelier than I have seen anywhere" (qtd. in Lanman and Harlow 2008:49). To make a pot, the clay was first gathered from a nearby quarry, accompanied during the process by ceremony and prayers. A metate, or grinding stone, was used to crush the clay to a powdery consistency. This culled powder then was mixed with pulverized pottery sherds and diluted with water to make a paste, and ultimately formed into a clay suitable for coiling into the ropes used to build the vessel. Following this construction, the clay was allowed to slowly dry and shrink, and the pot was covered overall with slip, and the surface carefully polished. Once polished, the decorations in pigments of red, black and brown were applied with brushes made from yucca. A painted line, as in the case of this vessel, generally separates the front and back of such pots. The vessels then were fired outdoors.

Ethnologist Frank Hamilton Cushing (1857-1900) described his observation of the religiosity inherent in the process of making such pieces by Zuni potters: "throughout all of these operations attendant upon the finishing and decorating of these vessels, no laughing, music, whistling, or any other unnecessary noises were indulged in, and conversations were carried on in faint whispers or by signs; for it was feared that the ‘voice' would enter into the vessels, and that when the latter were fired, would escape with a loud noise and such violence as to shiver the ware into shreds" (Cushing qtd. in Lanman and Harlow 2008:56). Such reverence for the nature of the materials and process, carefully nurtured through the artist's touch, reverberates in the rosette, which ably reinforces the form and function of this Zuni canteen.

-Catherine Carter Goebel, professor and chair of art history, Paul A. Anderson Chair in the Arts, Augustana College







Artist unknown (Zuni, New Mexico), Canteen with rosette medallion motif (hepakinne), red and black pigment on white slip, handles on each side, ca. 1900, Ceramic, hand coiled and outdoor fired, The Olson-Brandelle North American Indian Art Collection, Augustana College, (256-282 ZUN) 2005.1.263