Navajo Rugs and Blankets for Sale

Navajo Rugs and Blankets Links

Navajo Blankets

Navajo Saddle Blankets

Navajo Burntwater Rugs

Navajo Chinle Rugs

Navajo Crystal Rugs

Navajo Ganado Rugs

Navajo Pictorial Rugs

Navajo Red Mesa Rugs

Navajo Teec Nos Pos Rugs

Navajo Two Grey Hills Rugs

Navajo Wide Ruins Rugs

Navajo Yei Rugs

 

 

  Navajo Chiefs Blankets
 
 

Navajo Chiefs Blankets are the most recognizable and valuable of all Navajo weavings.  Navajo Chiefs Blankets have been collected not only by other Native Americans before the United States even existed, but also by such notable collectors as William Randolf Hearst.

A Navajo Chiefs Blanket could be purchased for around fifty dollars in the early 1800's, one thousand dollars by the turn of the nineteenth century, and today, a Chiefs blanket in excellent condition, could sell for half a million dollars or more. 

Late Classic Navajo Third Phase Chiefs Blanket

Mark Sublette Medicine Man Gallery located in both Tucson and Santa Fe is one of the leading specialists in Navajo rugs and blankets. The gallery specializes in early Navajo Blankets.  Dr. Mark Sublette, an authority on Navajo rugs and blankets, is one of the leading sources for authentification of these rare textiles.

Navajo Chiefs blankets come in four phases, along with variants.  Chiefs blankets are constructed in a wider than long format.

The First Phase Navajo Chiefs Blanket is simple with indigo blue stripes and white and brown natural churro wool. 

Navajo First Phase Chiefs Blanket Fragment

With probably less than 100 First Phase Navajo Blankets in existence today, these are the most valuable and rarest of the Navajo Blankets. Ironically, one of these was found on the Antiques Road Show in Tucson, Arizona. Because of the simplicity of the piece, the owner didn't realize this family heirloom had a great deal of value."A blanket of this quality and age" according to Dr. Sublette "should bring $500,000 or more in today's market."  

The Second Phase Navajo Chiefs Blanket has the addition of twelve boxes or rectangles laid down on a first phase chiefs blanket pattern. 

Navajo Second Phase Chiefs Blanket

 

The second phase navajo chiefs blankets are the next transition in Navajo aesthetics.  These blankets will bring somewhere between $125,000 to $250,000.  Second Phase Blankets are also very rare but more common in comparison to the First Phase Blankets.

The Third Phase Navajo Chiefs Blanket, for many collectors, may be the most artistic of the Chiefs Blankets.  Composed of nine diamond or Cross formations, these blankets were made in the 1860 to 1880 time frame. 

 Classic Navajo Third Phase Chiefs Blanket

The earlier or Classic Third Phase Chiefs Blankets are the most valuable.

                   

                   

                  Late Classic Navajo Third Phase Chiefs Blanket

Late Classic Navajo Third Phase Blanket

Composed of raveled natural dyed cochineal red yarns, natural churro indigo blue and white and/or brown stripes, third phase blankets can command prices upward of $175,000, though a good example usually brings closer to $75,000 - $100,000.

The Forth Phase Chiefs blankets, occurring generally after 1870, take the diamonds to an extreme with the background becoming much less important and the diamonds becoming the main focal element. Variant Navajo Chiefs Blankets used the basic chief blanket layout, but had unique patterns and designs which do not fall into any specific phase.

         

      Navajo Variant Chiefs Blanket Navajo Variant Chiefs Blanket

Navajo Variant Chiefs Blanket

Transitional Chiefs Blankets can occur in all of the phases and are still being made today  by the Dine or Navajo.  True Transitional Navajo Chiefs Blankets occurred from 1880 to 1900.  These Navajo weavings have a blanket feel, but the yarn composition is no longer raveled or bayeta, but rather a homespun generally with aniline colorations.  Transitional Chiefs Blankets can range in value from $5000 to $15,000 depending on the quality of the weaving and the colors used.

  

Navajo Transitional Chiefs Blankets

Germantown Chiefs Blankets are made of commercial 4-ply wool yarn which was made in Germantown Pennsylvania and sold at the trading post to the Navajo in the late 1890's.

Germantown Navajo Blanket with Spider Woman Crosses

Many posts like the Hubbell trading post had these made as revivals to replace the now old and rare Navajo Chiefs Blankets.

Maynard Dixon Hubbell Trading Post, Ganado, 1902

These are generally very well made Navajo Blankets that are highly desirable by today collectors.  A great example may bring upwards to $20,000.  

Navajo Chiefs rugs are just that, Navajo rugs that are made in a Chiefs Blanket pattern but use heavy yarn and are true Navajo rugs not blankets.  These are often sold as "Blankets" at blanket prices, but are acutally old copies of the original Navajo Blankets made for the tourist trade at the early trading posts.  These occurred from 1900 to 1940's.  Values are generally $3500 to $7500 for the earlier examples and occasionally, depending on design and quality excellent examples can bring even more.

The differences in these Navajo weavings to the untrained eye may not be great ,so it is always important to have a Navajo textile expert evaluate any Navajo blanket or rug before selling.  Price varies according to age and quality of the textiles. If you are interested in selling your Navajo rug or blanket, Dr. Mark Sublette, the President of Medicine Man Gallery, is happy to provide a free evaluation. Contact Dr. Mark Sublette.

Navajo History

The Navajo or Dine (dih-NEH, the Navajo word for themselves, meaning “the people”) are an Athabascan people who migrated to the Southwest from western Canada sometime between 1300 and 1500 AD.  After their arrival, a holy person named Spider Woman taught the Dine how to weave.  Spider Man gave them instructions for building the looms.  Accordingly, Dine men build the looms for their wives, daughters and mothers, but women traditionally do the weaving.

         

Anthropologists believe that the Navajo learned to weave from their Pueblo Indian neighbors.  Since about 800 AD, the Pueblo peoples had been weaving cotton originally brought from Mexico.  The Navajo and Pueblo had extensive contact through friendly trading, but also through the raiding depredations and slave taking of the Navajo from surrounding tribes.  Pueblo influence on the Navajo undoubtedly increased when the Spanish occupied Pueblo lands beginning in the late 1500s.  Religious repression and harsh treatment at the hands of the Spanish drove many Pueblo families to escape deep into Navajo territory.  By the mid-1600s, the Navajo were becoming skilled weavers.

Prior to imparting their weaving knowledge to the Navajo, Pueblo weavers themselves had come under the influence of Spanish weavers.  The most important and long-lasting change was the introduction of wool. 

Mark Rossi Churro Ram

Churro sheep, not native to the Americas, had accompanied the earliest Spanish explorers and settlers in the Southwest.  With its very long, wiry fibers, Churro wool was easy to spin and made very durable weavings.  Although the Pueblo peoples continue to use cotton as well as wool to the present day (particularly for ceremonial garments) the Navajo whole-heartedly adopted wool and became a sheep-herding society.  The Navajo’s use of cotton declined over the course of the eighteenth century, and only one early Navajo weaving in cotton is known to survive.

Garments—especially wearing blankets—comprised most of the products of the early Navajo and Pueblo looms.  Traditional, Native-made blankets were wider than long (when the warp was held vertically) and were typically known as mantas.  The Spanish introduced the longer than wide serape (or serape) form that was easier to make on European style looms.  Mantas and serapes generally were used in the same way: wrapped around the shoulders with the long edges on the horizontal.   However, mantas also were used by women as wrap-around dresses secured with a woven sash or belt.  Navajo serapes only rarely had a slit in the middle for the head which made them ponchos.  Navajo weavers made both the manta and serape styles during the eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries along with shirts, breechcloths, and belts.  As we will see, the now-famous Navajo rug was an invention of the late nineteenth century.

 

Scholars and collectors usually classify Navajo weaving into four overlapping periods defined by types of products, styles, and materials, although few scholars agree on the appropriate dates for each period.  In any event the dates and periods should be understood only as a rough chronology allowing for many exceptions.

  • Classic Period, 1650 – 1868
  • Late Classic Period, 1865 --1880
  • Transitional Period, 1868 – 1895
  • Rug Period, 1895 – Present

CLASSIC PERIOD WEAVINGS

 Weavings from the early Classic Period are exceedingly rare, and many exist only as fragments found at archaeological sites.  The handful of examples that pre-date 1800 reveal that early Navajo weaving was nearly identical to Pueblo weaving.  It included clothing and blankets made in both plain and twill weaves, rendered in striped, stepped, or plain patterns. 

 Weavers drew their colors primarily from the natural wool, ranging from white to dark brown.  Indigo, a non-native, deep blue plant dye, was being imported by the Spanish when the Navajo started weaving, and was available to them through trade.  In addition, Navajo weavers made yellow dyes from native plants, and sometimes combined them with indigo to make green.  By the late 1700s, Navajo weavers had access to a deep red color that came in the form of imported woolen cloth called bayeta (or “baize,” in English.)  Weavers actually unraveled the cloth and re-spun the yarns, giving this fiber the modern name, “raveled red.”

 During the Classic Period, the Navajo made three types of longer than wide serape style blankets.  The Moqui (Moki) pattern consisted of alternating stripes of indigo and natural brown, often separated by narrow white stripes.  Early traders thought the Hopi made these blankets, hence they were named Moqui, the Spanish word for the Hopi people.  Serapes made from loosely spun and coarsely woven wool were called diyugi meaning “fluffy weave.”  Diyugi featured natural brown and white stripes, sometimes embellished with narrow beaded, wavy, or checkerboard stripes. 

Navajo Moki Blanket

In the early 1800s, Navajo weavers began creating serapes with elaborate patterns of striped and stepped motifs, often arranged in bands of diamonds and zigzags.  This third blanket style of fancy serapes flourished at the end of the Classic Period due to two important influences: the importation of Hispanic weavings—particularly the colorful Saltillo style serapes, and the importation of pre-dyed, factory-made yarns in a wide array of brilliant colors, beginning in the 1850s.  The Saltillo type usually consisted of a large, colorful, and elaborate serrated diamond motif in the center, with rows of smaller serrated diamonds throughout the weaving.  Navajo weavers slowly and selectively adopted new design ideas.  Nevertheless, the complicated and colorful patterns that resulted from these outside influences marked the first major departure from traditional style Pueblo/Navajo weaving and were a precursor of the highly-patterned and finely woven rugs of the twentieth century.

Navajo weavers continued to make all of the Classic Period serape types well into the Transitional Period, but the most highly skilled weavers focused their creative energies on the finely woven, elaborately patterned type of serape first produced in the early 1800s.  These Late Classic Period pieces differed from their predecessors in the greater complexity of patterns and color palette.   Many of the best weavers of the Transitional Period drew inspiration from Saltillo style weaving to create highly elaborate patterns of serrated diamonds and zigzags.  Late Classic Period serapes also tended to be more colorful than strict Classic Period items due to the ever increasing number of new chemical dye colors coming on the market in the 1870s and 1880s.

A new functional type of serape—the child’s blanket or small blanket— became more common at the end of the Classic Period and usually is given a Late Classic Period designation.  While these small, fancy serapes certainly were used by children in some cases, they also were made as saddle blankets and saddle covers, and were used as covers for the doorway of the hogan, the traditional Navajo dwelling.  These small, decorative weavings also were made for trade to military personnel who wanted to take a bit of Navajo culture with them when they returned back East.

In the early 1800s, Navajo weavers began creating serapes with elaborate patterns of striped and stepped motifs, often arranged in bands of diamonds and zigzags.  This third blanket style of fancy serapes flourished at the end of the Classic Period due to two important influences: the importation of Hispanic weavings—particularly the colorful Saltillo style serapes, and the importation of pre-dyed, factory-made yarns in a wide array of brilliant colors, beginning in the 1850s.  The Saltillo type usually consisted of a large, colorful, and elaborate serrated diamond motif in the center, with rows of smaller serrated diamonds throughout the weaving.  Navajo weavers slowly and selectively adopted new design ideas.  Nevertheless, the complicated and colorful patterns that resulted from these outside influences marked the first major departure from traditional style Pueblo/Navajo weaving and were a precursor of the highly-patterned and finely woven rugs of the twentieth century.

Navajo weavers continued to make all of the Classic Period serape types well into the Transitional Period, but the most highly skilled weavers focused their creative energies on the finely woven, elaborately patterned type of serape first produced in the early 1800s.  These Late Classic Period pieces differed from their predecessors in the greater complexity of patterns and color palette.   Many of the best weavers of the Transitional Period drew inspiration from Saltillo style weaving to create highly elaborate patterns of serrated diamonds and zigzags.  Late Classic Period serapes also tended to be more colorful than strict Classic Period items due to the ever increasing number of new chemical dye colors coming on the market in the 1870s and 1880s.

 A new functional type of serape—the child’s blanket or small blanket— became more common at the end of the Classic Period and usually is given a Late Classic Period designation.  While these small, fancy serapes certainly were used by children in some cases, they also were made as saddle blankets and saddle covers, and were used as covers for the doorway of the hogan, the traditional Navajo dwelling.  These small, decorative weavings also were made for trade to military personnel who wanted to take a bit of Navajo culture with them when they returned back East.

Classic Navajo Child's Blanket

Navajo weavers made four distinct types of wider than long mantas in the Classic Period: plain black with indigo twill borders, white with indigo twill borders, patterned borders on either side of a solid center, and striped weavings now commonly known as “chief blankets.”  All of these blanket types were used by both men and women with the possible exception of the white and blue mantas, often called “maiden shawls.”  Blankets made for women often were of smaller size than those made for men.  The use of chief blankets certainly was not limited to tribal leaders (the Navajo did not have “chiefs.”)  The name probably derives from the fact that they were highly prized by wealthy and powerful members of Plains tribes who sought them in trade with the Navajo’s neighbors including the Utes and Comanche.

         

Weavings scholar, Jo Ben Wheat, has divided the production of chief blankets into four broadly overlapping categories. 

Fragment of First Phase Navajo Chief Blanket

First Phase blankets were made from about 1800 to 1850 and consisted of black (or brown) and white stripes with the top, bottom and center stripes being wider than the others.  The border stripes sometimes contained pairs of narrow indigo blue stripes, and outlining in very narrow stripes if raveled red. 

Second Phase Navajo Chiefs Blanket

Second Phase blankets included small red bars or rectangles at the center and ends of the blue stripes and were made about 1810 to 1870. 

Classic Navajo Third Phase Chiefs Blanket

The Third Phase type, between 1860 and 1880, saw the addition of stepped or serrated diamonds of color to the center and ends of the wide stripes.  Typically, the center of the blanket featured a full diamond, with quarter diamonds at the corners and half diamonds in the middle of the border bands. 

Weavings of the Fourth Phase, made from 1870 through the early years of the twentieth century, were actually products of the Transitional Period.  Not all collectors recognize this as a distinct phase.  In this type, the diamond motifs became larger and more elaborate, often overtaking the black and white stripes as primary design elements.  Revivals of chief blankets have been made through most of the Rug Period.

In the late 1700s, Navajo women adopted a new type of dress that supplemented, and eventually replaced, the blue and black, wrap-around manta dress of Pueblo origin.  The Navajo two-piece dress consisted of two matching, longer than wide blankets laid face to face and joined at the top corners or shoulders, and sewn about half way up the sides, forming the skirt portion.  They usually were held in place with a woven belt.  By the end of the Classic Period, the typical design for the two-piece dress consisted of a solid brown or black ground with stepped, red or indigo bands at top and bottom, often incorporating crosses, diamonds, or other terraced motifs.

      

    A Navajo Woman, Juanita, in a two piece dress, c. 1873

Collectors please visit:

WWW.MEDICINEMANGALLERY.COM

WWW.NAVAJOTEXTILES.COM

WWW.NAVAJORUGSBLANKETS.COM

Permission to reproduce photos and paintings in this online catalog secured by J. Mark Sublette. All rights reserved. No portion of this online catalog may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from J. Mark Sublette, Medicine Man Gallery, Inc.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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