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Tonala HeadHunter

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Head Vases42 of 69Lovely Lady Head Vases found at local Estate SaleHead Vase - Do not wash these!!
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    Posted 7 years ago

    michaelr.g.1
    (30 items)

    I am LOOKING FOR AN EXPERT to ask questions about the differences in Tonala pottery making methods, dating pieces and the pre-hispanic origins of the Nahual, Tonalá flower, and especially the Tonala Head???

    Head Theory 1 - Mexican pottery skills are deeply rooted in the Olmec culture, considered to be the “mother of the Mesoamerican cultures”.....I therefore suspect the head bank is based on the Mesoamerican ballgame " Ullamaliztli " in Nahuatl, " pitz " in Classical Maya, and in modern Spanish " El juego de pelota ". This particular sport has been played with ritual associations, since 1400 BCE by the pre-Columbian peoples of Ancient Mesoamerica, originally using a human head as the ball. The sport had different versions in different areas dating back a millennia, and a more modern version of the game, called " Ulama ", is still played in a few places by the indigenous population.

    Head Theory 2 - Another possible origin of the Tonala heads is they are simply a crude portrait of gods or deceased family members designed to be kept around the house as a urn, or left as an offering on graves similar in origin to the Spanish holiday " Day of the Dead " (Día de Muertos).
    .
    The boy Tonola head on the right was a tourist memento-piggy bank that an uncle brought back from Mexico around 1975 as a gage gift for my family. I think he actually picked it up in Zihuatanejo, which is on the west coast of Mexico, south of Tonala, which is inland. It has the blue "MEXICO" stamp on it, which I only mention incase anyone is trying to date these things. For over forty years my boy Tonala patiently waited for a beautiful senorita to come along, and when I finally brought a girl home, it was this crazy looking white girl sitting on the left dated 1952. The difference being the newer one on the right has a darker clay with a rubbed glaze (burnished), whereas the head on the left is made of a whiter clay that was simply dipped in a slip glaze (to seal the clay) and painted canelo style (cinnamon) before polishing it with lard and low firing it. This is a good comparison of similar two-piece molds (5 1/4" tall) used when the burnished method of making pottery came into favor around Tonala in the mid 1950's.

    Besides the difference in the clay and glaze, starting in the mid 1950's, Tonala pieces have "Mexico" scratched in, painted across , or stamped on its bottom.....and on occasions the artist signs them in various ways, typically with wide lines. My early white Tonola head has nun of the traditional newer markings and plus its dated "Oct 8 1952". The thin slip glaze makes it hard to tell if the writing is above or below, plus it has ware/glazing marks across the script. I have never seen a signature on an older piece of Tonala in what appears to be a fine tipped pen or pencil or a date like this piece has on it (FYI...My camera distorts color when zooming in)....UPDATE...After several local examinations I believe the writing is under the glaze. Therefore I am now wondering if anybody can provide signature examples, for comparison, of the families most proficient in the Canelo style, which include: Jimenez, Pila, Gueta, Pajarito, Fajardo.

    Any SIGNATURE INFO or thoughts on this canelo head will be greatly appreciated ???

    Happy Trails

    ===General information on Tonala's Pottery===

    HISTORY - Before the Spaniards arrived, pots were traditionally made in the town of Tonala in Jalisco, Mexico. Although it is still the center of ceramic production in Mexico, modern methods are the result of techniques introduced by the Spanish during the colonial period and the introduction of high-fire techniques in the 1950s and 1960s by Jorge Wilmot and Ken Edwards. Today, the four most common clay finishing methods used in Tonalá are burnished ( bruñido ... IE rubbed clay) , bandera (flag colors), petatillo (woven straw), and canelo (cinnamon colors).
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    COLOR - The frequent color combinations of classic Tonala include delicate tones of rose, cinnamon, gray-blue and bone white on a background of brown or antique white clay. I believe the use of bright white and yellow paint occurs around 1960. Typically, pieces with duller shades of paints suggests it was made prior to 1950.
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    FORM - The potter's wheel was unknown in early Mexico, so pieces were shaped by molding, coiling and other methods, which accounts for the variations in their work. The forms that this pottery "commonly" comes in includes plates, necked and no-necked jugs, carafes, water decanter & cup set ( botellones ), candle sticks, dinner bell, tile, etc.. The more traditional shapes are gourd vases-decanters, and numerous animal fetishes shaped like a bird, egg, cat, fish, shark, frog, turtle, squirrel, rabbit, etc... The "rarer" of the forms include a frog with protruding front legs (they break off), Peacock (tail brakes off) egg ( jewelry box & x-mas ornament), donkey/pony/horse kneeling/laying down, dog, snail, lion, peg leg turtle, ladybug, and especially the piggy banks (pig shaped, human heads, etc...Older banks are rare because children broke them open to retrieve money since most of them did not have any drain hole plug in the bottom). The head shaped banks come in large (around 6") and small (around 4"), and sometimes smaller heads appear as the spout of water jugs. In regards to the piggy banks, sometimes referred to as guinea pig banks because of their odd appearance, are actually a javelina (hah-vay-lee-nah) which is not a pig, a feral hog or a wild boar. However, in my opinion the "oddest" of all the animal fetishes is the lion, elephant, etc.... because what tourist picks up an African animal as a memento from there trip to Mexico....LOL

    VALUE - The value of Tonala pottery varies greatly depending on its age, painting, condition, signature, rarity of form, etc... The rarest of Tonala pottery is that of canelo style (cinnamon), but rarity does not always dictate value. Although its currently low in value compared to Native American Pottery, as the percentage of Mexican Americans in the US population grows so will the popularity and price of this unique art form. Currently, Americas hot spot for collectors of Tonala pottery is, not surprisingly, New Mexico.
    .
    INTERESTS - My current interest in Tonala pottery is primarily that of heads and animal fetishes in the more primitive canelo (cinnamon) clay that is reminiscent of pre-Hispanic times. The common motif of canelo pottery are palm leaves and the Tonalá flower (flor de Tonalá ). Unfortunately, a limited selection of forms exist because canelo is the method typically used for making common everyday earthenware, especially water jugs called " botellones". The low fire technique and semi porous nature of the clay allows for water placed in them to stay cool through natural evaporation. Canelo Pottery, also know as " Loza de Olor " also imparts a certain smell and taste in the water that's held in these jugs, which is desired by some people. The traditional sculptured form of " botellones " is that of a fat round body and long neck, with a cup placed upside down over the neck.....I would also like to find an early nahual in the canelo colors, which is a large, jaguar like cat with a smiling face. The nahual is a shamanic shape shifter who moves between the human and animal worlds. The term refers to both the person who poses that ability and to the animal itself that acts as its alter ego or guardian animal.
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    Admittedly, I also like the newer burnished method, but it does not always produce the cleanest results. In many cases a lack of both paint and glaze around attachments, especially around things like handles and animal legs, makes the pieces look hastily done and unfinished.
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    KeyWords: Master Ceramicist, Primitive, folk art, brunedo stone or metal, Bruñido (Burnished) Burnishing Ceramics, mined, mine, sifted, finger prints, arts and crafts, hand thrown, spinning wheel, thrown, hand built , miniature, artisan, leaf, Spanish, Hispanic, Tlaquepaque mex, canela ware, cinnamon ware, neo tribal tattoo designs, Mexicana, artists names: SG Simeon Galvan, earthenware water vessel, slab smell, nuance blue, bay, oven, river bank, quarry, Viejito cantaro done in Barro Canelo, anthropomorphic figures, Sculpture, Folk Art,

    References:

    4 Ball game references

    Hill, Warren D.; Michael Blake; John E. Clark (1998). "Ball court design dates back 3,400 years". Nature. 392 (6679): 878–879. doi:10.1038/31837.
    .
    Schwartz, Jeremy. "Indigenous groups keep ancient sports alive in Mexico". Austin American-Statesman. Retrieved 20 December 2008.
    .
    Jump up ^ Fox, John. The ball : discovering the object of the game", 1st ed., New York : Harper, 2012. ISBN 9780061881794. Cf. Chapter 4: "Sudden Death in the New World" about the Ulama game.
    3.Jump up ^

    Schwartz, Jeremy (19 December 2008). "Indigenous groups keep ancient sports alive in Mexico". Austin American-Statesman. Retrieved 20 December 2008.

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    Comments

    1. ho2cultcha ho2cultcha, 5 years ago
      i find the one on the left pretty interesting and unusual. i have a few head banks. i also have a really interesting and LARGE urn made in the 1930s from barro dulce which retains the strong rose scent. here is a collection of mexican pottery i put together here on cw: http://www.collectorsweekly.com/user/ho2cultcha/mexican-pottery
    2. ho2cultcha ho2cultcha, 5 years ago
      also, i started a FB page for collectors of Mexican pottery here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/tododebarro/ in case you or anyone else is interested.
    3. michaelr.g.1, 5 years ago
      Thanks for the links, but I have never done Facebook, so apparently I am missing a lot of hidden info.

      Do you know any of the history behind the Tonala figures?

      Happy Trails
    4. casimiro, 6 months ago
      Years late to this thread! I have several Tonala water decanters (botellones) and have been trying to date them. From your informative comments I now guess they are pre-1950s since they lack any writing or stamps on the bottoms and they are a duller color, mainly greys and greens. Can you point us to sources on dating Tonala ceramics?
    5. michaelr.g.1, 2 months ago
      I posted the only new information I have.

      https://www.collectorsweekly.com/stories/308117-vintage-article-on-tonala-pottery
    6. casimiro, 1 month ago
      The authoritative publication "Tlaquepaque Ceramics, 1920-1945 (Artes de Mexico #87)" states (p. 81) that after World War I all pottery intended for foreign markets had to bear a stamp or notation indicating its manufacture in Mexico. This regulation may not always have been followed or enforced. Still, the notation "Made in Mexico," whether stamped or written on the piece, may appear on items produced as early as the 1920s.

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