DALLAS – On Friday, November 11, Heritage Auctions presents an American Indian, Pre-Columbian and Tribal Art sale brimming with historical and contemporary offerings that collectors and institutions alike understand as significant. The weavings, jewelry, pottery and tools that make up this auction are both reassuringly familiar and wonderfully new to our eyes. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.
“This auction encompasses wonderful works from across the globe,” said Heritage’s Senior Specialist of Ethnographic Art, Delia Sullivan. “The Americas, the Pacific and African regions are represented here by the types of older and modern forms that draw discerning collectors and organizations who act as custodians of our shared histories. This is an excellent opportunity for new and established collectors.”
A real highlight of this auction is a circa-1865 Navajo Second Phase Chief’s blanket, estimated at $30,000-$50,000. This is the classic period for such a weaving, and the dye test reveals that its rich and luxuriant reds are cochineal and lac and its blues are indigo. Very few of these exist and they almost never come to market; this one is in good condition and is accompanied by copies of two dye test results.
A circa-1880 Kiowa / Comanche beaded leather dispatch case, estimated at $4,000-$6,000, is another auction highlight. This exquisitely beaded leather hide pouch comes with provenance: It was purchased in 1940 by the current owner’s grandfather, Louis P. Merrill, who was a director for the Soil Conservation Service; its previous owner, Victor Justice Evans (1865-1931), was a patent attorney in Washington, D.C. and an extensive collector of American Indian artifacts. Selections from his collection have gone to J. C. Dykes of Washington, D.C. and the Denver Art Museum.
Gold is the hallmark of Pre-Columbian work in the November 11 auction. A finely detailed and significant Tairona gold pendant, dating to circa 1000-1400 A.D., depicts a crouching figure grasping at its waist a braided rope or snake curled at each end, and it has a head of a transformation figure: the mouth of a crocodile extending into a large bird beak. “That this is a masterpiece of its type cannot be overstated,” said Sullivan of the pendant, which is estimated at $10,000-$15,000.
From the African and Oceanic regions come a significant array of iron tools, including gorgeous iron currencies of exceptional hammer work and details. These 19th- to early 20th-century pieces hail from various parts of Africa, and the bat forms, blades, bride prices and staves boast attractive patinas and solid provenances.
Speaking of currencies from this region and era, an exceptional Yoruba torque (Nigeria, 18th-19th century, or perhaps earlier) is a star attraction. This large and exceptionally sculptural solid copper alloy is very heavy, in excellent condition, with a perfect patina of use and age. It is nearly a foot tall. “Authentic copper alloy torques of this size and quality are rare. This compares favorably to the one in the Brooklyn Museum,” said Sullivan. “Such items were the first true general-purpose currency known in West Africa, being used for ordinary market purchases, bride price, payment of fines, compensation of diviners and for the needs of the next world as burial money. A torque of this size and quality would have been owned by the wealthiest or titled members of a society.” It carries an estimate of $4,000-$6,000.
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