Jar with Serpentine Handles

Patterns Gallery
Jar, ca. 1700.
Courtesy the Hispanic Society of America, New York, USA.

This vessel is typical of high-status pottery made in the city of Puebla de los Angeles, New Spain in the 17th and 18th centuries. Such ceramics, which were sold in markets and traded across Spanish America, could be found in households, convents and monasteries, pharmacies and shops. The fanciest of these blue-and-white wares adorned the tables of the wealthy, or were nestled in cabinets alongside other elegant objects such as porcelain jars imported from Asia and boxes inlaid with mother-of-pearl and ebony.

In this example, blue glaze is lavishly used on a white background. And on the belly of the vessel, the painter perched a crane atop a nopal cactus—perhaps reinterpreting the eagle-and-cactus symbol for the Aztec empire and Tenochtitlan, its capital city.

Like many Puebla ceramics, this vessel draws inspiration from European pottery and Chinese ceramics (blue-and-white painting also dominates Ming Dynasty works). Both kinds of pottery were imported into New Spain, and found their way to Puebla, a wealthy city on the road between the Pacific and Gulf coasts. Works such as this one show how colonial craftsmen re-imagined and re-worked diverse cultural influences, ultimately creating wholly new objects with their own, distinctive aesthetic. As highly desired objects for the rites of daily life, these ceramics also show how distinctive tastes flourished in busy centers of trade and commerce in Spanish America.



Acuña, Patricia. 1987. Talavera de Puebla. Puebla: Gobierno del Estado de Puebla.

McQuade, Margaret Connors, ed. 1999. Talavera Poblana: Four Centuries of a Mexican Ceramic Tradition. New York: Americas Society Art Gallery.

Talavera Poblana. 1979. Mexico City: Fomento Cultural Banamex.

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