Native American Art at Bonhams & Butterfields

. June 5, 2008

Fine arts auctioneers Bonhams & Butterfields present Native American and pre-Columbian art from trusts, estates and private and institutional collections on Monday, June 9, 2008 in San Francisco. Highlights include pottery and baskets, weavings and jewelry, as well as kachinas and desirable collectibles of the Southwest, California and the Northwest Coast.

The summer sale features property of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri, sold to benefit future acquisitions, as well as property from the Alfred Miller and Lillian Dunn Miller Collection (Hollywood, CA) and collections in Seattle, Arizona, Kentucky, California and Oklahoma, among others.

native-american-art.jpgFrom a Seattle collection offered within the Eskimo and Northwest Coast section of the sale comes a fine and rare Nootka figural bowl likely from the late 18th or early 19th century, carved to portray a reclining male figure, expected to bring bids of $125,000 to $175,000. The bowl’s facial carving displays a sharp hooked nose, elongated tapering eyes and an open oval mouth, the piece is heavily worn overall with numerous knife cuts and a rich, aged patina.

Sold by order of a Kansas City trust affiliated with the Nelson-Atkins are an Eskimo ivory pipe (est. $4/6,000) and a carved Kwakiutl rattle designed as a duck effigy (est. $5/8,000) formerly part of the Heye Foundation – Museum of the American Indian collection.

A Northwest Coast Chilkat blanket is expected to attract collector interest, the example woven with an unusual portrayal of a seated bear flanked by a pair of killer whales. It had been acquired from a Juneau, Alaska dealer by Western author Zane Grey and had descended in his family (est. $40/60,000).

Within the sale’s ever-popular Pottery section are desirable examples of Mimbres black-on-white bowls, Zuni and Hopi canteens and Acoma, Santa Clara and San Ildefonso jars and plates. A highlight within the offering is an early example of a Maria and Julian Martinez jar, expected to bring $50,000 to $75,000. The piece, more than nine-inches high and 14-inches in diameter, features a stout water serpent sinuously encircling the globular form, reportedly acquired directly from the makers in 1921 or 1922 as one of their first ever “experimental” black-on-black wares.

Polychrome bowls include Santo Domingo storage jars, one previously within the Fred Harvey Collection (est. $10/15,000), and a Wyandot polychrome jar inscribed and made by contemporary artist Richard Zane Smith, which could bring as much as $12,000.

Baskets feature a Yokut polychrome lidded basket described by the auctioneers as “superb.” Alternating horses and animated male figures decorate its neck, a rattlesnake design forms the band at the shoulder, and depictions of men, women and children encircle the base. The lid was woven with a five-pointed star, quail top knots and wool tufts about the edges, its estimate is $40,000 to $60,000.

Attributed to Washo weaver Scees Bryant is a scarce polychrome basket of degikup form, finely woven with an oval start (est. $75/125,000). A 21-inch high Apache olla is decorated in a pattern of stacked and checkered diamonds including animal and humans forms (est. $25/35,000) while a Mission olla-form polychrome basket features a zigzag pattern (est. $7/10,000) and a Klikitat polychrome tobacco basket with domed lid could bring $7,000 to $9,000.

Woodlands material includes an historic three-foot long Arapaho tomahawk society effigy stick devised as a cylindrical shaft tapering at the butt end, the top with an L-shaped crook worked to depict a horse’s head, including a scalloping underside as its mouth, with a horse hair mane secured with sinew and quill-wrapped throngs (est. $30/50,000). According to research performed by the current owners, the club was an 1869 gift from Arapaho Chief Little Raven to the Chair of the Board of Indian Commissioners, a body established during the Grant Administration in 1868.

Beaded vests, shirts, dresses, moccasins, cradles and blankets are to be offered, as is a Cheyenne painted buffalo robe, expected to bring as much as $50,000. Weavings include Navajo mantas, rugs and blankets of varying design and size, estimates ranging from $2/3,000 to $20/30,000. The sale features Southwest jewelry and pre-Columbian artifacts as well as Hopi and Zuni kachina dolls – colorful, expressive examples as tall as 20-inches high. Works in bronze by Allan Houser includes his sculpture “49,”numbered 19/20, depicting a drum circle (est. $20/30,000). Select paintings include an abstract Tony Da acrylic on board (est. $8/12,000).

The illustrated auction catalog is online at www.bonhams.com/us for review and purchase. Previews open at Bonhams & Butterfields’ San Francisco gallery on Friday, June 6, continuing daily until sale day.

Category: Auction News

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