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 for $1.8 million
• Silver and art glass prove crowd favorites
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.
Silver continues to sell quite well at John Moran Auctioneers, with some finely wrought pierced silver heading the pack in June. The very first lot offered, a large German silver pierced center bowl, intricately decorated with floral garlands, vines, and birds, sold for triple the high estimate ($800 to $1200), at $3600, finally going to a floor bidder who had to beat out numerous absentee bidders as well as some online interest. Directly following that lot, three Shepheard & Co. English pierced sterling silver baskets outdid the high estimate to sell to a floor buyer at $6600 (estimate: $2500 to $3500). A pierced sterling vase by the ever-popular Gorham, decorated with birds, tulips, peonies, and daffodils and incised with great detail, hammered for an impressive $3600, well over the estimated $1500 to $2000. Perhaps most notable of the silver lots was an English sterling silver caviar server by Asprey, which sold for over double the high estimate, realizing $7,800. Weighing in at nearly one hundred troy ounces altogether, this server featured shell-form handles, dolphin-form feet, and a gilt sturgeon set upon the cover, as well as a matching spoon with dolphin handle and a shell-form bowl (estimate: $2000 to $3000).
Art glass pieces were also highly sought, with pieces by Lalique bringing the best hammer prices. A Lalique ‘Formose’ vase, made of cased opalescent glass, decorated with a shoal of shibunkin fish, realized a healthy $3,367.75 (estimate: $1500 to $2000). Another Lalique piece – a ‘Quatre Moineaux du Japon’ table clock, featuring four sparrows perched upon dogwood blossoms - another excellent example of Lalique’s adaptation of Japanese imagery- sold for $3000 (estimate: $1000 to $2000). An unsigned Durand ‘King Tut’ footed vase, featuring an opalescent orange-gold swirl pattern on a green ground exterior and a gold toned interior, evoked gold and gemstones fit for an ancient Egyptian pharaoh, and ultimately hammered for double the high estimate, bringing $1800 (estimate: $600 to $900).
Additional highlights include:
• A lot comprising a simple but elegant Mexican gilt sterling silver tureen and bowl, and another lot of Mexican gilt sterling silver plates, both sold for over estimate, bringing $3,300 and $5,100 respectively, on estimates of $1200 to $1400 and $1500 to $2000 respectively.
• A Steinway & Sons Model M grand piano with a walnut case found a new home at a Southern California music school for $9,600 (estimate: $6000 to $8000)
• A pair of Persian silk rugs in matching patterns was purchased for $2,700 by a floor bidder, after fierce competition with prospective buyers on the floor (estimate: $1500 to $2000)
John Moran Auctioneers is now accepting quality consignments for their August 28th Jewelry, Luxury Items and Antiques auction, and for all remaining 2012 auctions, including the October sale of European, American and Modern Fine Art and the December Jewelry and Luxury Item Auction. Please contact the offices by phone at (626) 793-1833 or by email at:
for inquiries concerning consignment.
John Moran’s next Antiques Auction is scheduled for July 24th. Highlights include historically significant Americana, Art Deco and mid-century modern design, and clocks. For more information, including more highlights and full catalog listings, please visit www.JohnMoran.com. Bidding in all of John Moran’s sales is available by telephone, absentee, from the floor, and live online via LiveAuctioneers.com, AuctionZip.com, Artfact.com, and Invaluable.com.