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Water Jar

Nupe potters are known for creating vessels covered with intricate surface patterns, and this jar shows their ceramics at its best: the plump, pleasingly proportioned spherical form is beautifully complemented by patterns that are precise without appearing mechanical. On the bottom half of the jar, a comb or similar tool created incised parallel lines that are arranged horizontally and diagonally in alternating bands. Above, a similar tool was used to a very different effect, creating two bands of undulating curves that carry viewers’ eyes around the jar, each band with a slightly different rhythm because of the differences in the curves’ sizes and spacings. The curves are punctuated by applied bits of clay, stippled to tie them visually to the similarly treated surface around the curves. The jar’s decorative program is further united by thin ropes of clay impressed with diagonal lines that divide and border the bands of curves and present a variation on the horizontal and diagonal lines below. The incising technique is used again just blow the neck and on the inside of the rim; here, though, the lines are wavy and drawn freehand, with an improvised quality that adds yet another dimension.

Nupe peoples, Nigeria
Water Jar
20th century
Clay
H. 12 ¾ in. (32.4 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, Gift of William M. Itter, 2011.310