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Native American Art Realizes Strong Prices in June at Bonhams & Butterfields
Top lot of the June 2010 Native American Art sale at Bonhams & Butterfields is this Northwest Coast Haida or Tlingit eagle effigy bowl which brought $146,000. The oval utensil was conceived as a stylized eagle, the raptor's head rising at front with its beak curving over the interior cavity, a rich dark and oily patina evident from use. (height 4 1/4in, length 7 1/8in). Photo: Courtesy Bonhams & Butterfields.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA.- On June 7th 2010, fine arts auctioneers Bonhams & Butterfields hosted an auction of Native American Art in its San Francisco galleries, realizing more than $1.6-million for baskets, pottery, jewelry and blankets from private collections, estates and institutions. Top lots included Northwest Coast and Plains material, with strong bidding seen throughout the 440-lot auction.

Collectors vied for a seven-inch long Haida or Tlingit eagle effigy bowl with a rich dark and oily patina from use, the successful bidder paying $146,000, three times the estimate. The oval utensil was conceived as a stylized eagle, its head rising at the front, the raptor’s beak curving over the interior cavity. Wooden tail feathers project from the rear, while wings and form lines in shallow relief decorate the sides of the bowl. Another eagle-form Northwest Coast artifact brought $11,590 – a Kwakiutl feast bowl featured painted details on the head, tail and rim.

A Tlingit or Haida headdress consisting of a wooden frontlet carved in relief with a prominent bird head near the top and four bear paws protruding from its red-painted torso sold for $42,700. A Haida argillite ship pipe more than tripled its pre-sale expectation to sell for $48,800. This pipe was carved from a single slab of the black slate material with a remarkable composition – its central ship’s cabin featured window panes carved of bone with two human heads visible inside. At the bow of the elaborately-decorated ship-form pipe a bear figure attacks a man dressed in a 19th century style waistcoat, while at the stern two figures arm-wrestle, one pulling the other’s hair.

The majority of the sale’s top ten lots sold were offered during the auction’s Plains/Plateau/Woodlands section. A Plains Apache shield constructed of buffalo hide and painted with a central crescent form, varied triangles and a cross is decorated with a draped hide valance fastened across the top section hung with tine cones (brought $48,800). A Kiowa beaded cradle of hide and cloth construction on a wood frame displays distinctive stylized floral motifs on either side; the four-foot long cradle brought $54,900. A fine and rare Cheyenne beaded tobacco bag is profusely decorated with a classic bar design on the main panel and a lengthy fringe wrapped in quills and tin cones (sold above estimate for $67,100). Several admirably decorated garments enticed bidders: a Fort Berthold quilled shirt of soft hide featured open sides with an underarm fringe composed of strips of hide and locks of hair (brought $39,500); a fully beaded Sioux girl’s dress of buckskin was imaginatively adorned with polychrome geometric forms (brought $48,800) and a 54-inch long Jicarilla Apache beaded dress, a two-skin garment with separate bodice and lengthy fringe at the open half sleeves, sold within estimate for $30,500.

Additional sale highlights include:

Top lot of the Pottery section was a Hopi jar by Nampeyo, the inverted saucer-shaped vessel with a creamy while slip painted above the shoulder with batwing patterns and feather devices (brought $21,960).

Selling within estimate in the Baskets section was an exceptional Yokut polychrome lidded bottleneck basket featuring alternating horse and human figures at the neck, a variety of men, women and children figures at the base, and a rattlesnake design band at the shoulder (brought $39,650).

Top lot within the Weavings section was a tightly-woven Navajo late classic chief’s blanket boldly patterned with nine-spot series of crosses on a banded ground (sold for $14,640).

The auction opened with the large and fine collection of early silver, turquoise, coral and shell jewelry from the Breitbart Collection, which included Navajo, Hopi, Pueblo and Zuni bracelets and necklaces. A first-phase Navajo concha belt with eight oval silver conchas sold for $24,400. Author Millard J. Holbrook’s note included with the lot describes the belt as a classic first phase concha belt made by a Navajo silversmith about 1870 to 1880.

Sculpture by modern artists included Allan Houser’s bronze "Holders of the Knowledge" which sold for $14,030 and paintings included an untitled oil on canvas by R.C. Gorman which doubled its estimate to sell for $8,540

Bonhams | Native American Art | San Francisco |

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