Unknown Santo Domingo Artist, nusd2m064, Polychrome pitcher with flower and geometric design


A polychrome pitcher decorated with a traditional Santo Domingo flower and geometric design

In stock

Dimensions 3.75 × 4.25 × 5.75 in
Condition of Piece

Very good, rubbing on bottom and sides, wear on handle


Unknown Santo Domingo Potter

The first Santo Domingo Pueblo potter to sign their pieces regularly was probably Robert Tenorio, beginning in the late 1960s. The few potters still working at Santo Domingo have signed most of their own work since. But almost nothing was signed before Robert started.

A Short History of Santo Domingo Pueblo

The mission at Santo Domingo Pueblo
The mission at Santo Domingo Pueblo

Santo Domingo Pueblo is located on the east bank of the Rio Grande about half-way between Santa Fe and Albuquerque. Historically, the people of Santo Domingo were among the most active of Pueblo traders. The pueblo also has a reputation of being ultra traditional, probably due, at least in part, to the longevity of the pueblo's pottery styles. Some of today's popular designs have changed very little since the 1700's.

In pre-Columbian times, traders from Santo Domingo were trading turquoise (from mines in the Cerrillos Hills) and hand-made heishe beads as far away as central Mexico. Many artisans in the pueblo still work in the old ways and produce wonderful silver and turquoise jewelry and heishe decorations.

Like the people of nearby San Felipe and Cochiti, the people of Santo Domingo speak Keres and trace their ancestry back to villages established in the Pajarito Plateau area in the 1400s. Like the other Rio Grande pueblos, Santo Domingo rose up against the Spanish oppressors in 1680, following Alonzo Catiti as he led the Keres-speaking pueblos and worked with Popé (of San Juan Pueblo) to stop the Spanish atrocities. However, when Spanish Governor Antonio Otermin returned to the area in 1681, he found Santo Domingo deserted and ordered it burned. The pueblo residents had fled to a nearby mountain stronghold and when Don Diego de Vargas returned to Nuevo Mexico in 1692, he attacked that mountain fortress and burned it, too. Catiti died in that battle and Keres opposition to the Spanish crumbled with his death. The survivors of that battle fled, some to Acoma, some to fledgling Laguna, some to the Hopi mesas. Over time most of them returned to Santo Domingo.

In the late 1690s, Santo Domingo accepted an influx of refugees from the Galisteo Basin area as they fled drought and the near-constant attacks of Apache, Comanche, Ute and Navajo raiders in that area.

Today's main Santo Domingo village was founded about 1886.

In 1598 Santo Domingo was the site of the first gathering of 38 pueblo governors by Don Juan de Oñaté. He attempted to force them to swear allegiance to the crown of Spain. Today, the All Indian Pueblo Council (consisting of the nineteen remaining pueblo's governors and an executive staff) gathers at Santo Domingo for their first meeting every year, to continue what is now the oldest annual political gathering in America. During the time of the Spanish occupation, Santo Domingo served as the headquarters of the Franciscan missionaries in New Mexico and religious trials were held there during the Spanish Inquisition.

Today, the people of Santo Domingo number around 4,500 with about two-thirds of them living on the reservation.

Map showing the ;location of Santo Domingo Pueblo relative to Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Gallup, New Mexico
The location of Santo Domingo Pueblo

For more info:
Santo Domingo Pueblo at Wikipedia
Santo Domingo Pueblo official site
Pueblos of the Rio Grande, Daniel Gibson, ISBN-13:978-1-887896-26-9, Rio Nuevo Publishers, 2001
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License

About the Flower World Complex

The Flower World Complex is an ideology based around a paradise filled with brilliant birds, brightly-colored butterflies, lush vegetation with plenty of precipitation and plentiful wildlife. The ideology of the Flower World Complex was particularly enticing to the people of the Southwest deserts and mountains as it promised something of wonder that they didn't have in their daily lives. But only if one obeyed all the rules issued by the local cacique could one get there. It was because the residents of the villages of Sikyátki and Awatovi stretched those religious boundaries that other Hopi villages destroyed them so long ago.

The Flower World ideology came together in central Mexico, designs have been traced to Teotihuacan. From there it migrated west, then north to Casas Grandes and Paquimé. It first appears in the American Southwest in the Mimbres region in the 1100s. By the 1200s it had migrated across Chaco Canyon to the Kayenta Anasazi and the Four Corners area. It is suspected that the arrival of the Flower World Complex with its new textiles, designs, rituals and ideology was responsible for the formation of the Kachina religion. In the latter decades of the 1200s, the Four Corners and Mesa Verde areas were depopulated, spreading those new developments across the Southwest from the Little Colorado River to Pecos, Gran Quivira and Acoma.

This proliferation may have been aided by a massive volcanic eruption on the other side of the planet at Mount Samalas in Indonesia in 1257 CE. Ash filled the sky around the globe for months and when it rained, it poured. Then the temperature dropped and the rain stopped. Crops either failed or were washed away, for several years. That eruption has been called the beginning of the Little Ice Age. For a religion that was primarily based on worship of the sun, the rain and the Three Sisters (maize, squash and beans), it must have looked like an epic fail. There is evidence that as people left the Four Corners and Mesa Verde areas, they slowly shed the accoutrements of the old religion and donned the regalia of the new one. Within a couple hundred years they had traveled up to several hundred miles to the east, south and west, and fractured into numerous different peoples speaking several different tongues as their ceremonies also diverged.

It has also been proposed that many images from the Flower World (flowers, birds, butterflies) brought a feminine principle back into what was then an increasingly male-dominated religion and society. Many of those images have been combined with imagery from before: the clouds, mountains, forests, wildlife, lightning bolts and such that add "depth" to the overall images.

The symbols and designs of the Flower World Complex are still being painted, etched and carved in today's pueblos, although their meanings have evolved over the years. Some of those designs were also easily translated into rock art and that art proliferated across the Southwest, changing the character of rock art everywhere between the Grand Canyon, the Arkansas River, the Pecos River and the Gulf of Cortez in only a couple generations.

About the Pitcher

After Spanish contact, pueblo potters slowly started to change their pottery styles to accommodate the newcomers. "Colonial" pottery started to appear, primarily made for sale or trade to incoming Spanish settlers and adapted for their needs and uses. The pitcher is one of those new shapes that developed.

Traditional Santo Domingo Design

Santo Domingo is considered a very conservative pueblo, especially when it comes to their religion. Their religion affects every aspect of the people's lives at Santo Domingo. Due to what has happened to them since Coronado and his men first arrived, they have become very secretive in regards to every aspect of their religious practices.

For example, artists are not allowed to depict human forms, especially on products meant for sale to outsiders. That restricts the artist's palette to images of birds, flowers, fish and various geometric patterns symbolizing water, forest, clouds, rain and lightning bolts. There is also a tradition at Santo Domingo of painting their pots completely in the negative using black and red pigments, rather than just painting in black and red on their usual "white" background slip.