Navajo Rug Record Tumbles
The world record price for a North American textile was smashed to smithereens at John Moran Auctioneers in Pasadena, California on 19 June 2012 when a Classic Navajo First-Phase Chief-style wearing blanket was bought for $1.8 million.
The Chantland Blanket, woven in the mid-19th century from handspun wool in natural ivory, dark brown and black, as well as indigo-dyed blue and lac-dyed red, is in good condition, of exceptional rarity (and beauty), and has exemplary provenance. It was consigned to Moran’s by a descendant of a Johan Tjentland, later known as John Chantland, a Norwegian settler who owned a dry goods store in Mayville, Dakota Territory, who traded for it in the 1870s. Since then, it has remained in the family’s possession, never exhibited and unwashed, until the present day.
Considered the ‘holy grail’ of Navajo textile collectors, in the 1870s Classic First Phase blankets sold for around $100 to $150, a large sum for the time. Today, fewer than a hundred are known to exist, and only four other examples incorporating lac-dyed red stripes are known outside of public collections, including an almost identical blanket, possibly by the same weaver, in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, DC.
At almost ten times Moran’s upper estimate ($100-200,000), the price paid triples the previous highest amount at auction for a Classic (pre-1860) Navajo blanket, the $522,500 paid at Sotheby’s New York in November 1989 for a similar Navajo ‘bayeta’ First Phase Chief’s blanket from the Janss Collection . It is also the second-highest sum ever paid at auction for a Native American artefact of any type – an Oglala Sioux war shirt that soared to $2,658,500 at SNY in May 2011.Private sales of Classic Navajo blankets have approached the $1 million mark, but never surpassed it.
We have a large and expanding collection of Navajo weaving but at more affordable pricing.