Roybal, Tonita – Black-on-Red Bowl with Plant Design (1925-8)
This is an exceptional black-on-red bowl by Tonita Roybal. Tonita and her mother, Dominguita Pino, were both very well known for their black-on-red pottery before the advent of the black-on-black pottery in 1920. While they were one of her most iconic styles, very few of them remain today, especially in good condition. The pieces were slipped with red clay and then painted with the black for the designs. This bowl is an early piece from the 1920s. While numerous potters were making black-on-red pieces before 1920, Tonita was certainly among the best and her signed pieces in this style remain classics. This bowl is fully designed with some of Tonita’s classic imagery. There are four sections, with plant, rain, cloud, and prayer feather designs. The bowl is signed, “Tonita” on the bottom. This is a signature from probably closer to 1925-8. It is an important and striking piece of her pottery both in terms of coloration and design. There are a few interesting items of provenance on the bowl. On the bottom written in pencil is “Santo Domingo”. I have had several of Tonita’s black-on-red pieces with this written on the bottom. I think when they were re-sold by traders they didn’t think of this style as “San Ildefonso” and the closest they could come up with was Santo Domingo. It is an interesting part of the history of Pueblo pottery, as there is a LOT of misidentification of pieces in the past. More interesting is that the bowl was deaccessioned from the American Indian Culture Research Center in South Dakota. There is a small cloth tag with the catalog number and museum name. This is interesting as it was DIck Howard who purchased the entire collection and it was this group that spurred his interest in Tonita’s pottery. I remember going to his house and seeing some of the pieces he had just acquired. He was so excited about them and Tonita’s pottery. I can say that his early enthusiasm for her work sparked my first interest as well, as seeing so many in person was breathtaking and unique at the time!