Exceedingly Rare and Important
Great Lakes to New England, ca. 1780.
Drawing on generations of learning, very thinly hewn from dense ash burl. “Bundle” objects were held by the sachem or medicine men or women, wrapped in blankets in a bundle, and set aside for curing ceremonies and/or performances. They were often passed down for generations.
Way too sophisticated for daily use, there is no applied finish, rather the bowl has a very high degree of burnishing from rubbing with animal skins as there was great effort to make it smooth. Further burnishing also likely occurred from rubbing against the bundle blanket.
Medicine bundles were created to bring healing and vision to the individual, or to the entire tribe.
Yet not only is it an important medicine bowl, it has been described as the “Perfect Object”, as something that cannot be improved upon while maintaining its general essence. It fully succeeds in execution, form, and surface—nothing is lacking and nor can be improved. The surface is a benchmark for untouched, complex patination on a Woodlands ash burl bowl as if it traveled to us in a time machine. Look closely at the outside bottom up to the rim; there is a complex tonal transition from oxidation and exposure. The color goes from a light warm ochre on the bottom, transitioning into a smoky brown at the rim. The interior, with undertones of red, is stained dark red-brown from berries and roots and heightened by a blackened, carbonized bottom from hot stones used to heat medicinal concoctions. Breathtaking!
The wide and shallow proportions are thinly and evenly hewn, like pottery thrown on a wheel. About 8 ½ to 8 ¾ inch diameter x 2 ½ high, with a rim that is just 1/16 of an inch and 1/8 over the entire body.
It's not only rare to find a bowl as perfectly made as this but also to find it untouched for about 2 and ½ centuries. It is quiet and sublime—one that reveals itself more and more over time. It begs to be touched. Imagine holding in your hands this important historical object. A masterpiece by which others may be judged.
Provenance: Trotto-Bono Antique American Indian Art, Steve Powers Works of Art and Americana (2X), private collections (including Peter Brams; and most recently private collection Santa Fe, NM).