Jar with Avanyu, ca. 1919-20
Maria Montoya Martinez (c. 1880s-1980) and Julian Martinez (1879-1943)
Gift of the artists, 1940. Museum of Indian Arts and Culture/Laboratory of Anthropology 19414
Before 1910, future director of the museum Edgar Lee Hewett encouraged Maria Montoya Martinez from San Ildefonso Pueblo to revive arts that had been replaced by manufactured goods. Hewett’s Santa Fe Program, as he called it, sought to improve conditions in the community by reviving potterymaking and by encouraging the beginnings of the Pueblo watercolor painting movement.
Maria and her husband, Julian, invented a new style of Pueblo pottery in 1918 or 1919. Unlike their earlier polychrome pottery, the new style created striking matte-black and polished-black imagery. In this piece, the avanyu, or horned serpent, was taken from a petroglyph near the pueblo. At this time most anthropologists placed a premium on the arts of the past that they considered to be “authentic” and forcefully rejected innovation by Pueblo artists. However, the spirit of openness promoted by the modernist community of Santa Fe valued innovation and actively supported this form of it. The museum exhibited the new work shortly after it was created and acquired pieces for the collection.