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Rare Cheyenne quilled shirt among successful highlights of fine native American art auction at Bonhams
A Sioux quilled war shirt. A two-hide poncho-style garment, open at the sides, quilled bands across the shoulders and down the sleeves, a quilled bib below the neck front and back, suspending fringe, small mammal pelts and an array of ermine strips, rows of tadpole motifs painted on the ochre-stained hide. Length 30in. Sold for $50,000; Est. $40,000-60,000. Photo: Courtesy of Bonhams.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA.- The Native American Art auction, December 5 at Bonhams in San Francisco, exceeded expectations, taking in more than $2.012 million in sales and drawing in competitive bidders in the auction room, online and over the phones.

Leading the auction was a rare Cheyenne quilled shirt, circa 1830-1840 from The Bones Collection, that is one of the earliest examples known to exist today. It sold for $338,500 against its pre-sale estimate of $300,000-500,000. The shirt, which was sold to benefit the Southern Oregon Historical Society, was in their collection since the 1950s, and is said to have been collected at Fort McPherson in Nebraska in 1868. It may be associated with Spotted Tail, a Sioux leader, according to the family history accompanying it.

The rare Cheyenne quilled shirt was just one of many successful highlights from the Plains/Plateau/Woodlands category of the sale. A selection of others included a Sioux quilled war shirt that sold for $50,000 (est. $40,000-60,000); a Ute beaded shirt, with possible attribution to Chief Ouray, that achieved $45,000 (est. $15,000-25,000); a rare, detailed mirror stick, highly-regarded by its native users as a tool holding power and significance that brought $40,000 (est. $15,000-20,000); a Kiowa painted buffalo robe that hammered down for $23,750 (est. $20,000-40,000); and a Crow spontoon pipe tomahawk that took in $20,000 (est. $10,000-15,000).

The Eskimo/Northwest portion of the auction also saw many successful sales. Leading the category was a Northwest Coast Chilkat blanket that sold for $43,750 (pre-sale est. $40,000-60,000). The blanket, woven of mountain-goat wool and cedar bark, displays an emblematic pattern relating to a clan's crest animal, rendered in a conventionalized pattern of animal parts and formline designs with fringe suspensions down the sides and across the bottom. Additional highlights from the region included a large Kwakiutl totem pole, carved almost entirely from a single tree trunk that sold for $31,250 (est. $10,000-15,000); a Haida argillite carving of an angel that took in $25,000 (est. $6,000-9,000); a Tlingit canoe-form bowl that brought $23,750 (est. $12,000-18,000); a Haida argillite platter that achieved $17,500 (est. $8,000-12,000); and a Northwest Coast raven rattle that went for $16,250 (est. $15,000-25,000).

Jim Haas, Vice President and Native American Art Director at Bonhams, said of the auction: “The economy remains unstable, of course, but I see plenty of reason for optimism in my market. Today’s sales results were very gratifying. As the quality of our offerings increases and the audience grows I believe it bodes well for the future.”

Additional categories of Native American Art that did well were pottery and weavings. A selection of pottery highlights included a large Zia polychrome storage jar, possibly the work of Trinidad Medina, that sold for $43,750 (est. $30,000-40,000); a Sikyatki Awatovi polychrome jar that brought $23,750 (est. $15,000-25,000); and a Zuni polychrome jar that achieved $21,250 (est. $8,000-12,000).

Top lots of weavings included a Navajo first phase chief’s blanket that reached $230,000; a Navajo classic child's blanket that sold for $35,000 (est. $15,000-25,000); a Navajo early transitional chief's blanket that took in $16,250 (est. $4,000-6,000); and a large Navajo Teec Nos Pos rug that went for $15,000 (est. $7,000-10,000). Weaving of a different sort was represented in the auction’s highlights with the sale of a Pomo wedding basket that brought $17,500 (est. $7,000-10,000).

Additional highlights included lots of Hopi kachina dolls from the Southwest region. The best-selling dolls included a Hopi kachina doll, representing Hemis kachina that sold for $27,500 (est. $20,000-40,000); a Hopi kachina doll made by Wilson Tewaquoptewa that achieved $13,750 (est. $7,000-10,000); and another Hopi doll, representing Suy-ang-e-vif, the left-handed kachina, that brought $11,250.

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