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Never-Before-to-Market Collections of Native American Art for Sale
A Northwest Coast "Grease Bowl" (c. 1800-1850) is carved in the likeness of a seal effigy, with head, tail and flippers projecting at both ends. The bowl's interior is ribbed, the underside worked in schematic composite animal parts with a human figure splayed below the seal's head... length 10 3/4 inches. Est. $75/125,000. Photo: Courtesy Bonhams & Butterfields.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA.- Native American art comes to auction at Bonhams & Butterfields in San Francisco on Monday, December 14, 2009 featuring several important collections which have never-before been offered publically.

Fine Northwest Coast art is well represented by the Berthusen Collection from the Lynden Pioneer Museum of Lynden, WA. Gathered one summer in the early 1900s by Olive Berthusen during a trip up the Canadian Coast, the collection was enhanced until her death in 1937, upon which her estate was left to the city of Lynden. The collection has been exhibited at the Lynden Library, moving later to the Pioneer Museum after its founding in 1976.

Of particular interest from this collection are four intricately carved “grease” bowls, dating from the mid-19th century or earlier, three in the form of seals (est. $75/125,000, $60/90,000 and $40/60,000); the largest conceived as a stylized eagle (est. $75/125,000). These types of bowls were made to contain edible oils used as an accompaniment to the dried fish or meats that were served during feasts and potlatch celebrations on the Northwest Coast.

“Decorated bowls such as these fine examples were the property of the nobility, whose wealth and influence enabled them to commission such utilitarian artworks from the artist class,” said Stephen Brown, former curator of Native American Art at the Seattle Art Museum in a written expertise on these bowls.

Other highlights from the Berthusen Collection include a Haida frontlet depicting a seated figure on a finely grooved background (est. $60/90,000); a deftly-carved dagger hilt (est. $15/25,000) showing a bear’s head clenching a human figure in its mouth; and numerous figures, maskettes and other carvings.

An old New Mexico family collection assembled over several generations was begun in the 1920s. The December sale offers an impressive array of more than 40 lots of historic Pueblo pottery - the finest selection of this type of material to be offered by Bonhams & Butterfields since the record-breaking Silverman Museum sale in December of 2006. Of note are several early storage jars of substantial size, including: Kiua (est. $30/50,000); Powhoge (est. $30/40,000); Santo Domingo (est. $12/18,000) and other desirable examples. The collection also includes a fine selection of Hopi kachinas, Southwest jewelry, Apache and early Navajo baskets, Navajo weavings, and intriguing Pueblo utilitarian implements.

The Estate of Hortense Griffin Lanphere, from Sedona, AZ, offers material collected by two separate families - one in the Northwest, the other in the Southwest, eventually merged through marriage. Two Haida argillite carvings include a sizable two-sided tableau estimated at $7/10,000 and a finely-rendered box with raven and sun motifs (est. $6/9,000). These will be offered along with a selection of stone utilitarian objects representing the Northwest; and an enigmatic Pueblo stone human effigy (est. $1/2,000) reflecting the Southwest.

Another collection assembled by two families united by marriage is a selection of Plateau buffalo hide and other parfleche envelopes (est. ranging from $3/4,000 to $800/1,200) from the Wilson Trust, a family of Nez Perce and Anglo-American origin. A Crow beaded jacket (est. $4/6,000) also comes from the Trust. Other garments of note include a Cree beaded and quilled coat cut in a European fashion (est. $8/12,000) and a rare Mohawk shirt, circa late-18th/early-19th century, tailored in a style reminiscent of Plains warriors' shirts and decorated with stenciled sun motifs, formerly part of the Charles Derby Collection (est. $200/300,000.)

More than 20 lots comprise baskets from an old California family, assembled in the first decade of the 20th century and stored in a trunk for the past 50-years. Included are fine examples of Yokut, Maidu, Pomo, Modoc and Western Mono weaving. Featured baskets from other collections include a historic circa 1850 Southern California polychrome bottleneck basket (est. $30/50,000) along with several baskets attributed to specific weavers, including: Maggie Howard (Mono Lake Paiute, est. $15/20,000); the famed Washo weavers Dat-so-la-lee (Louisa Keyser) (est. $12/18,000) and Susie Dick (est. $20/30,000); and a Chumash example attributed to Candelaria Valenzuela (est. $8/12,000.)

Following Bonhams & Butterfields’ record setting white-glove sale of the upper tier of the Lynn D. Trusdell Collection of early Navajo and Southwest jewelry on June 1st of this year, the much-anticipated third installment of the collection will be offered in the December 14th sale, to include more than 80 lots of bracelets, belts, necklaces and other items.

Bonhams & Butterfields | Native American Art | Berthusen Collection |

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