First Phase Navajo Chief’s Blanket Headlines Successful Summer Antiques Auction at John Moran’s • Much anticipated Fine Antiques Auction Featuring Native American Items draws hundreds of bidders online, by phone, and on the floor
• Show-stopping first phase Navajo weaving sold to noted dealer
News-Antique.com - Jul 18,2012 - Pasadena, CA—The wait for the much anticipated sale of a rare lac-dyed Navajo First-Phase chief’s wearing blanket finally came to an end on the evening of June 19th, when the ‘’Chantland Blanket’’ took center stage at John Moran Auctioneers’ Fine Antiques Auction. Talk of this remarkable textile, one of only five similar examples known to exist outside public collections, circulated for months amongst collectors and enthusiasts of Native American artifacts. On the day of Moran’s sale, it was laid out on tables and segregated from the rest of the lots by red velvet ropes, and attendees came from near and far to view- and possibly even get a chance to touch- the pristine blanket, which was making its first-ever appearance in the public spotlight. The ‘’Chantland Blanket’’ emerged from obscurity at one of Moran’s free walk-in evaluation clinics, brought in by a private party whose family had handed it down though several generations since the 1870’s, using it daily. Unbeknownst to the consignor, a very similar blanket, also featuring lac-dyed fibers, is a star exhibit in the Smithsonian’s permanent collection. The combination of rarity, condition and provenance proved a trifecta on the auction block, as a full bank of phone bidders and a crowd of floor bidders went to battle. Several bidders dropped off as the price quickly escalated well beyond the $100,000 – 200,000 pre-sale estimate, and at the one million dollar mark the action settled into a tense tug-of-war between two phone bidders and the well-known dealer and specialist Donald Ellis, of Donald Ellis Gallery, bidding from the floor. Ellis emerged the victor, ultimately purchasing the piece for $1.8 million (all prices include 20% buyer’s premium). In one fell swoop, the knock of the hammer marked a new world record price for any Navajo textile sold at auction, smashing the previous record of $522,500.
The allure of the ‘’Chantland Blanket’’ no doubt helped to boost prices for the sale’s other Native American weavings. Early in the proceedings, a mid 20th century Navajo woven woolen rug shot past its estimate of $700 to $1000, realizing $1,960. Immediately following, a Navajo Germantown rug, displaying the vibrant colors and complex patterns common to the type, handily surpassed the estimate, selling for $2,756.25 (estimate: $1500 to $2000). A Native American child’s classic blanket, woven in the mid 19th century and dyed with indigo and lac, hammered at $7,800, topping the $5000 to $7000 estimate, despite light wear to one edge.
Non-textile Native American pieces also achieved impressive prices, including a Navajo silver belt with nine highly decorated oval conchos featuring stamped decoration that brought a hearty $1,020 (estimate: $400 to $600); a San Ildefonso blackware plate, created sometime between 1925 and 1943 by master Native American master potter Maria Montoya Martinez and her husband, Julian Martinez, that realized $3,368.75 (estimate: $1500 to $2500); and a tiny, extremely finely woven Pomo basket, estimated to bring $1000 to $1500, that impressed buyers with its exquisite craftsmanship, selling at $2,450.