Los Angeles, CA — It was the Wild West [Coast] at John Moran Auctioneers on Tuesday, May 24, 2022, for the Art of the American West sale. Bidders moseyed on over (via online, phone, and in-person) to roundup the vast selection of Native American and Western fine art, pottery, and decorative art objects this auction offered. Carefully curated with the art and furniture, the showroom was filled with the largest, most stunning collection of Native American textiles, blankets, weavings, and rugs.
One of the highlights was a Chimayo/Saltillo Revival serape textile from late 19th/early 20th Century. This important textile, lot 2308, is finely woven with a sublime color palette of even tones including green, brown, rust, and purple, and displays classic design elements such as the important central motif of a serrated concentric diamond, so defining Saltillo style. It was made with a Vallero star in the center of the diamond, an intensely decorated inner field, and distinctive serrated borders and banding. The use of the Vallero star suggests the coming transition between the earlier Rio Grande style and the twentieth-century Chimayo style. While the origins of the Saltillo serape are obscure, it ultimately became part of everyday wear for most people of Spanish America, increasing in popularity during the 18th to the mid-19th century. Over time, the Rio Grande weavers of New Mexico incorporated the striking design features of Saltillo serapes with an outside border, main field, and striking center design. Starting with a modest estimate of $3,000-$4,000, this piece reached the top spot for the auction at an impressive $10,625 (including buyer’s premium).
Besides textiles, this sale featured numerous lots of masterful Puebloan pottery from groups such as San Ildefonso, Zia, Acoma, Hopi, Santa Domingo, Navajo, and a nice variety of redware and blackware from Santa Clara. Lot 2030, a Nancy Youngblood blackware lidded melon form vessel from 1996 was a favorite, ending at a price realized of $5,525 (including buyer’s premium), with an estimate of $3,000-$5,000.
For the cowboys (and girls!), there were a couple of pairs of well-crafted leather chaps, complete with rope and fringe embellishments. For their horse, lot 2264, a hand-tooled saddle and bridle by D. Hulbert, with an estimate of $800-$1,200. It’s from the High Country Cowboy Company in Arboles, Colorado, known for using the highest quality materials and time-tested techniques for fit and durability. This piece is a hand-tooled leather saddle and fenders with leather cinch, latigos, open stirrups, as well as detachable tooled saddle bags. Made for the discerning horseman and working cowboy, the design also includes a detachable rifle carrier with a leather headstall. The bidder with the quickest draw galloped away with this custom cowboy seat after a closing bid of $4,375 (including buyer’s premium).
Among the several collections was a beautiful bunch of basketry. There were selections of Pima and Apache baskets, Navajo wedding baskets, and Hopi wicker plaques. A couple of highlights in this category were lots 2081, a polychrome Yokuts basket, and 2107, a polychrome Mono “Ant Trails” lidded basket by Rose Baga, both from the James M. Cole Collection.
“The other strong basket sale, lot 2107, was a polychrome Mono “Ant Trails” lidded basket by celebrated weaver Rosa Baga, of the Monache tribe from Central California.”
The polychrome Yokuts basket is an attractive boat-shaped oval polychrome basket with diagonal rows of graphic designs featuring twelve rows of either centipedes or quail plumes, and ant trails flanking a rattlesnake scale pattern. The imagery of Yokuts’ baskets is important and often tells a story. In Yokuts mythology, the imagery of the quail and ant serves as a subtle warning and remind the misbehaving/deadly rattlesnake to stay in line and behave. The Yokuts tribe of Native Americans had been renamed Tulare Indians by the Spanish meaning, “people of the tules.” Tule was a type of plant that grew in the traditional Yokuts territory. These lowland marches of the Sierra Nevada foothills and San Joaquin Valley produced the various materials that were used in the construction of the now highly prized and coveted baskets, including broken fern, sedge, and redbud. This piece was estimated at $800-$1200 but finished with an exciting final bid at $4063 (including buyer’s premium).
The other strong basket sale, lot 2107, was a polychrome Mono “Ant Trails” lidded basket by celebrated weaver Rosa Baga, of the Monache tribe from Central California. Expertly woven with a stepped four-part design of “ant trails” on the globular sides and lid, this superb basket also illustrates a similar story of imagery from the natural world. The techniques and design work share common features with Yokuts baskets. Historically, the Western Mono or Monache people migrated out of the Great Basin area to the western flank of the Sierras into Yokuts territory, and after finding the new environment less suitable to twined techniques, learned to make coiled baskets from Yokuts. Although the techniques and design work share common features with Yokuts baskets, each maker may have her own interpretation of the shared designs. This sought-after woven wonder, estimated at $500-$700, brought in a solid $2,500 (including buyer’s premium).
The spectacular wide array of late 19th and 20th century textiles was over 150 lots and represented the work of many indigenous people throughout the Southwest and Northern Mexico—most being of Navajo origin. Lot 2121, a Navajo Germantown Moki Blanket had an estimate of $6,000-$8,000, so the $7,500 (including buyer’s premium) winning bid was well received. A rug by Alice Jones, lot 2209 was a Navajo Ganado Storm Pattern Rug all in for $2,500 (including buyer’s premium), after an estimate of $500-$700. Then, lot 2226, A Navajo Double Saddle Blanket presented itself on the block. This textile from the early 20th Century is woven in dark brown/black and cream wool, with a ghost center and Anasazi-style motif corners. Navajo saddle blankets are prized for their wide variety of colors and often free-form designs, reflecting the inner artistic vision of the weaver, rather than adhering to similar patterns and styles. These textiles, which are smaller than rugs or other kinds of Navajo blankets, were easy to transport, especially for buyers who visited Navajo country on the Santa Fe railroad. The earliest saddle blankets date from the 1870s. During the 1890s, Navajo saddle blankets made from Germantown wool became popular and are intricate with tight weaving and vivid colors. 1900 to 1930 was thought to be the golden era of Navajo saddle blankets, as many of the most uniquely Navajo pieces were woven during this time. Stylistically, Navajo saddle blankets can include intricate geometric motifs, minimalist designs, representational pictorial images, names, initials, or ranch brands. This perfect, pristine example was originally estimated at $1,000-1500, but more than doubled after it hammered in $4,875 (including buyer’s premium).
—Brenda Smith and Sally Andrew, John Moran Auctioneers
As we head into the second half of 2022, John Moran Auctioneers continues their summer lineup with the Studio Fine Art auction on Tuesday, June 7th, followed by the Post-War and Contemporary Art + Design sale taking place Tuesday, June 21st. Be sure to mark your calendars for these upcoming auctions so you don’t miss out on the action, and the treasures!
Studio Fine Art: ONLINE Tuesday, June 7th | 10:00am PST
Post-War and Contemporary Art + Design: Tuesday, June 21st | 12:00pm PST
ReDesigned: Tuesday, July 19th | 12:00 pm PST
Art of the American West: ONLINE Tuesday, July 26th | 10:00 am PST
For upcoming highlights, online catalogues, and more information on these sales, visit Moran’s website: www.johnmoran.com. Bidding is now available online via Moran’s new mobile app, Moran Mobile, available on both iOS and Android operating systems. Live bidding on a desktop is available through our website; bidding is also supported by telephone or absentee.
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