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American Indian Art


10 AM, May 20, 2009

LOT 22


40,000—60,000 USD
Lot Sold. Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium: 43,750 USD


measurements note
width 100 in. by height 90 in.

Acquired from Morning Star Gallery 1991



Morning Star Gallery, Santa Fe, Summer 1991, p. 35


LOT 24


100,000—150,000 USD


measurements note
length 64 in. by greatest width 11 in.

Donated to the Smoki Museum by Barry Goldwater, AZ



Through the mid-19th century, bison skin robes were the most common upper garment worn by males, and the only winter garment for either sex. For ease in fleshing and tanning, hides were usually split down the center and re-sewn. The blanket strip, developed as a solution to hide the seam which was created in the process, became an important part of Native costume as well as status symbol.

Blanket strips were in use long before artists such as George Catlin and Karl Bodmer arrived in the West in the 1830s and documented them in their drawings and paintings. Strips were originally decorated with porcupine quills but by the late 18th or early 19th Century Native artisans were incorporating large globular glass beads from Venice, also known as "pony beads," as seen in this example.

Pony-beaded material that pre-dates 1850, as this strip does, is extremely rare; this blanket strip is one of four known to exist.

For a comparable example, please see First American Art, The Charles and Valerie Diker Collection of American Indian Art, University of Washington Press, 2004, p. 108, cat. No. 56.



LOT 38


5,000—7,000 USD


measurements note
length 27 in.

LOT 59


60,000—80,000 USD
Lot Sold. Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium: 146,500 USD

height 9 3/4 in.

Acquired from Christie's London, June 1983, lot 101


For a related example and a brief discussion see Stephen Phelps, Art and Artefacts of the Pacific, Africa and the Americas, The James Hooper Collection, London 1976, p. 323 and p. 308.

Also see Allen Wardwell, 1996, Tangible Visions, The Monacelli Press, New York, p. 208: "Shaman's wore both combs and hairpins during curing ceremonies as well as when not practicing. They are decorated with both spirit helpers and what appear to be crest emblems."

Also see Sotheby's New York, December 1998, lot 434; and Sotheby's New York, October 2006, lots 23 and 24.


LOT 67


40,000—60,000 USD
Lot Sold. Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium: 43,750 USD

height 30 in.

LOT 76


60,000—90,000 USD

height 7 1/2 in.


of convex form, finely carved with a depcition of an eagle, inlaid with brilliant plaques of abalone shell.



Bill Holm, The Box of Daylight: Northwest Coast Indian Art, University of Washington Press, Seattle, 1983, p. 19: "From the farthest northwestern reach of Tlingit country at Yakutat Bay, southward along the coast to the middle of Vancouver Island, dancing chiefs wore crowns as elegant as rich material and sculp­tor's skill could make. Traditions of the tribes assign various places of origin to the dancing head­dress, but, whichever is correct, it must have been somewhere in the north. Some were collected very early in the historic period, one of the most beauti­ful by Malaspina in 1791 (Feder 1977: fig. 4). The features of the headdress are the same wherever it is worn: a cylindrical frame - often made of strips of whale baleen and covered with cloth - from the back of which hangs a long panel covered with rows of white ermine skins; an upstanding circlet of the long, springy whiskers of the Steller's sea lion; and a spectacular plaque carved of hardwood, painted and inlaid with abalone shell on the fore­head. This plaque, or frontlet, is carved to represent a crest or a mythical character. The figure in the center is surrounded by a flange that is usually cov­ered with inset plates of brilliantly iridescent aba­lone shell. Inlays of the same shell flash from the eyes, teeth, and joints. Sumptuous materials sur­round the intricate plaque. Often the crown is cov­ered with a band of swan skin, luxuriant with white down, or ermines flank the frontlet. On Haida and Tlingit headdresses the plaque is often framed by rows of orange and black, spear-shaped tail feathers of the red-shafted flicker, with a band of iridescent green and black mallard head-skin across the forehead.

The dance must have traveled from tribe to tribe with the headdress as its use spread over the coast. The dancer appears with blanket and apron and often a raven rattle (Holm 1972:29 and Holm 1983). Knees slightly bent and legs spread, he jumps on both feet to the time of the song beat - ­short jumps, feet hardly off the floor, making the ermine rows covering his back jump in turn. The blanket was spread by the wearer's arms or elbows. The crown of sea lion whiskers holds a loose fluff of eagle down when the dancing begins. The whis­kers rustle and clatter as the dancer bobs and tosses his head, shaking white whisps of down through the whisker barrier to swirl around his dancing fig­ure. The white down means peace, or welcome, to the guests at a potlatch. Chiefs dance to greet canoes invited from far villages. Canoe-borne visi­tors dance in turn, and the swirling down from their headdresses drifts shoreward on the wind and over the host and his tribe on the beach. Among the Kwakiutl and their relatives, the dance is a preliminary to the appearance of a figure masked as a crest of the headdress dancer, who, possessed, runs from the house. In its rich composite of material, form, and movement, no Northwest Coast object expresses the ideas of rank and heredity, super­natural power, drama, and aesthetics so well as the dancing headdress."


LOT 68


25,000—35,000 USD

length 26 in. by height 15 1/2 in. by width 16 1/2 in.

LOT 199


60,000—90,000 USD
Lot Sold. Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium: 92,500 USD

height 6 1/8 in.

LOT 75


175,000—225,000 USD


measurements note
length 16 in.

with shallow domed cap, carved at the front with an animal's head, probably a bear or wolf; composed of birch, abalone and copper.

Michael R. Johnson Gallery, Seattle

Sylvia Duryee Collection, Seattle

Donald Ellis Gallery, Dundas, Ontario

Phil Loeb Collection, Seattle


Seattle Art Museum, September 15, 1983-Janaury 8, 1984

Seattle Art Museum, February 19-May 10, 1998


Bill Holm, Box of Daylight, University of Washington Press, Seattle, 1984, pl. 51

Steven C. Brown, Native Visions, University of Washington Press, Seattle, 1998, pl. 4.46


From a written assessment on this piece by Steven C. Brown: "Clan hats on the Northwest Coast include a broad range of sculptural types and manifestations. Some are woven spruce-root hats with painted crest-emblem designs and often status rings attached, and some of these further have sculptural embellishments in the form of animal heads or dorsal fins fastened to the hat. Wooden hats that are essentially versions of the woven hat shape vary from ones with just painted, or painted and carved, crest-emblem designs to examples with sculptural protrusions integral to the hat. These sculptural features often represent the heads and/or body parts of crest animals and are usually displayed in conjunction with two-dimensional design details painted and carved into the surface. Another general type bypasses the woven hat form entirely and employs just a sculptural representation of the crest animal image, which has been hollowed out to accept the head of the wearer on the bottom of the carving. The format or composition of the animal figure can vary widely, with some including just the salient features like the head and fins or wings, while others include the entire body and limbs of the image. The subject hat is one of the latter type, and is composed as a crouching bear-on-all-fours perched on top of the wearer's head.

Several features suggest the Tsimshian attribution for this sculpture. These include the rounded head and slim, rounded snout of the bear, the thin lips, the rounded modeling that suggests an underlying bone structure about the eyesockets and cheeks of the face, the small, thin limbs of the bear, and the extensive use of red (and some white) dashing in thin lines on the body to represent the long, reddish hair of the grizzly. The ears are unnaturalistically large, but their upright, rounded silhouettes reflect the appearance of alert bear's ears. Abalone inlay enhances the eyes and teeth, and the incisors are small pieces of copper sheet inset into the mouth. The blue paint that covers most of the face is a typical characteristic of animal masks from this area, and though this shade of blue is a little darker than is commonly encountered, it is within the usual range of variation that exists in the mineral sources of the color. It appears therefore to be a native pigment, and the slight flaking of the paint suggests that the paint binder is the traditional salmon-egg protein. The bear's mask-like head is slightly elevated in an alert and aware attitude, which would further lift the bear's visage above the wearer's head. The bear's fore and hind legs are slightly separated from the lower rim of the headgear, which would serve to accentuate the free sculptural form of the image atop the head of its owner. The slightly asymmetrical tilt or turn of the bear's head adds greatly to the lively and alert appearance of the sculpture. A pair of small holes appears on each side of the hat rim just above its lower edge, which probably accommodated a thin tie-thong to secure the sculpture on one's head.

With the exception of the U-shaped formline elements in the ears, there is no two-dimensional design work displayed on the headgear. Changes in formline design style over time provides an evolutional scale that can assist in dating undocumented objects. The style of the design elements in these ears, though, is enough to suggest that the bear was carved around the mid-nineteenth century or earlier. The U-shapes are fairly broad in character, which is consistent with the early historic period style of formline design. The dashing painted on the body is a feature most commonly seen in the Coast Tsimshian region of the northern Northwest Coast. Though it appears in other areas on occasion, particularly among the Kwakwaka'wakw of Vancouver Island, the technique was most commonly employed by Tsimshian artists in a general time period between about 1830 and 1865.

Perhaps the best documented group of objects from this region and timeframe is the collection made by the Rev. Robert Dundas in the reformed Christian village of Old Metlakatla, BC in October, 1863. The collection included quite a number of ceremonial objects including masks, clappers, a shaman's rattle, and crest-emblem headpieces including a conical hat and several forehead-mask types. Several of these objects were embellished with fine red dashing on a black background similar to the technique applied here. Some parts of the Dundas collection show considerable age, even as early as the eighteenth century, while the majority of the works in that group appear to have been comparatively young when they were acquired by Rev. Dundas. The objects that display the kind of red dashing seen here appear to range in age from a few years to a few decades prior to 1863.

When compared to the appearance of the objects in the Dundas group, the overall style of work in this bear headpiece seems to be earlier than many of the similarly painted sculptures in that collection. Therefore it seems appropriate to attribute this object to sometime in the roughly 30-year period prior to the 1863 date for the Dundas material, or about 1830-1860. Worn in a ceremonial context, the image that such a magnificent headgear would have conveyed was a complex blend of history, mythology, wealth expression, status, and artistry, all encapsulated in this lively little crouching bear."

See The City Review article on the Spring 2006 American Indian Art auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2000 American Indian Art auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Fall 1999 American Indian Art auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Spring 1999 American Indian Art auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Spring 1998 American Indian art auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Spring 1997 American Indian Art auction at Sotheby's

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