Navajo Transitional Chief's blanket

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Navajo Transitional Chief's blanket

0.01

Second Phase Variant

natural wools; white, brown, indigo-dyed blue and synthetic-dyed red

excellent condition with a few broken warps (very minor)

circa 1890s

SOLD

(mc2019)

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The Navajo wove wearing blankets before the railroads arrived in the Southwest. From the beginning, they traded their blankets with others (Plains Indians) as well as wearing them themselves. The only wearing blanket that was wider than it was high was influenced by the Pueblo manta, which is also wider than tall. These are known as Chief’s blankets, as they were made available to the best warriors and leaders. The designs changed slightly over the years. The First Phase Chief’s blanket is made up of stripes alone, usually with natural white, dark brown, and natural red and occasionally also indigo-dyed handspun wools. These give way to the Second Phase Chief’s blanket, which has a 9 point design (3 squares within the top band, 3 squares within the central band, and 3 squares within the bottom band). The final design is known as the Third Phase Chief’s design, which has triangles and diamonds rather than squares and these transcend the bands).

The design in this blanket is known as a Second Phase Variant. Because it was woven a few decades after the classic Second Phase Chief’s blanket and it was woven for sale, not wear, it is not as wide as the earlier version. Therefore, the weaver reduced the number of squares. The red dye in this example is from a synthetic red dye whereas the earlier dye would have been lac or cochineal. In all other elements, however, this blanket is similar to the finest of the earlier blankets.  The wool in this blanket is very soft and supple, providing a wonderful “ handle” to the blanket. The colors are rich and pure.  It is a true blanket, not rug. The weaver was very skilled and likely wove blankets in the pre-Reservation period.