Navajo (Dine) sandpainting rug

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SalisburyHouse.asr_edited-2.jpg
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SalisburyHouse.asr_edited-2.jpg

Navajo (Dine) sandpainting rug

0.01

Representing the 8th day of the Nightway Ceremony

56 5/8" wide x 56 7/8" long

excellent condition

circa 1925-1926

ex: Private Collection by descent

SOLD

(R0258)

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The Navajo believe that people should be in balance with the natural world around them. Illness and other woes are an indication of a disruption in this harmony. To restore it, the traditional Navajo family hires a medicine man to perform a ceremony or ceremonies, often transpiring over many days. At the height of these ceremonies, the medicine man draws a very specific design in colored sand. We refer to these as "sand paintings". Afterward, the sands are disposed of ritually and the details of the designs remain confidential. Otherwise, the Navajo believe that harm will come to those who reveal these designs.

Trade in Navajo textiles to Anglos throughout the country blossomed when the railroads arrived in the Southwest in the 1880s. By the 1920s, it was well established. Collectors wanted ceremonial images represented in Navajo textiles but, of course, it was forbidden to reveal these images other than during the ceremony. There were a few weavers who took the risk, altering a few details but basically representing the general form of the designs. These textiles were woven in secrecy and the traders sold them discreetly.

The textile offered here is a very rare period sandpainting rug. There is another, very similar version of this sandpainting rug (pictured above). It is in the Salisbury House in Des Moines, Iowa. Documentation of that rug shows that Carl Weeks, the owner of Salisbury House, commissioned the sandpainting rug from Ed Davies in Two Gray Hills  in 1923. Davies delivered it to him in 1924. We have learned that Davies decided to have the weaver weave another one or two of the sandpainting rugs since the Weeks sale was successful. This is apparently one of those that Davies had woven. While it looks like it was recently woven, it actually was woven circa 1925-1926. It has been displayed on the wall of a room that was rarely lit during the years that transpired and it never saw any light or wear.

These two sandpainting rugs are undoubtedly by the same weaver or family of weavers. They vary slightly in detail, as would be expected. They were undoubtedly able to be woven because Two Gray Hills was in a remote area of the Navajo Reservation.