A Late-Classic First Phase Navajo wearing blanket

Circa 1870
Woven of churro wool in red, cream and dark brown horizontal stripes
51.5" L x 61" W

  • Provenance: Private Collection Tucson, AZ, acquired in 1976
  • Notes: First Phase blankets of this era are considered among the finest achievements in Navajo weaving due to their materiality and distinctive design. They were frequently woven by Navajo women, created from handspun churro wool. Preferred for its long-staple fibers, churro wool was particularly conducive to hand-spinning and the tight weave ensured exceptional durability and near impermeability to water. Even at the time of manufacture in the 1800s, the blankets became status symbols, prized by Spanish and indigenous traders alike. The term Chief's blanket references this desirability and expense when they were first produced. The naming convention can be misleading, as the Navajo had no tribal chief.

    Vertical looms were introduced to Navajo weavers by the Pueblo, and First Phase blankets likewise derived from their earlier precedent. A striking Pueblo shoulder blanket in alternating colors of natural wool inspired Navajo weavers to develop the Chief's blanket. The First Phase aesthetic is most often found from 1850-1870, and is characterized by the broad horizonal bands of white, brown and red. It was intended to be worn by both men and women, over the body and crossed at center. When draped, the stripes to take on an entirely new form.

    While this example is not among the earliest First Phase weavings made from raveled Bayeta wool, it does share almost all other aesthetic characteristics. The present example was colored with aniline dye, introduced in the 1860s and supplied to the Navajo soon thereafter. The blanket features another distinctive detail: The left and right sides portray evidence of how the weaving was produced, joining two separate weavings into a final, singular form.

  • Condition: Overall good condition commensurate with age and use. Selvage edges in pink. Scattered light staining and a 1" round repaired hole to brown band in one corner. Side B: With fading to lower third, most notable in red band.

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May 25, 2021 12:00 PM PDT
Monrovia, CA, US

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