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Ancient St. Lawrence Island artifacts on the auction block at Bonhams San Francisco
A Cheyenne shield and covers. Est. $150,000-200,000. Photo: Courtesy of Bonhams.
SAN FRANCISCO, CA.- The Native American Art auction at Bonhams, December 9 in San Francisco, will feature strong offerings from notable collections.

From the Eskimo and Northwest Coast are perhaps the most remarkable highlights of the entire sale: three Okvik Eskimo artifacts from 2,000 years ago; the star of which is a masterpiece fossilized ivory head, estimated at $150,000-250,000. There will also be a second remarkable head and a perfectly preserved pair of wooden snow goggles. These phenomenal artifacts are fresh to the market, having been consigned by the inhabitants of St. Lawrence Island who found them where their ancestors left them. There will also be several antique carvings from a Florida Collection, including a rare Eskimo fiddle decorated with a pair of human faces and a massive Kwakiutl figural feast ladle.

There will be a strong collection of pottery, including contemporary, historic and pre-historic examples, ranging 2,500 years. Contemporary examples will include a complete nativity scene by Helen Cordero; three superb pieces by Tony Da, the late, noted San Ildefonso Pueblo artist and grandson of Maria Martinez; as well as two large vases, one red-ware and the other black, by Margaret Tafoya of Santa Clara Pueblo. Collectible historic pottery will be on offer from the Phillips Collection and other estates. Pre-historic Southwest pottery will include figural Mimbres bowls. Rounding out the section are works attributed to the most famous Hopi-Tewa potter, the matriarch Nampeyo.

Weavings will be prominent in the sale. Taking pride of place will be a Navajo first phase Ute-style chief’s blanket from a famous Hollywood collector (est. $300,000-500,000). From the Ruth Belikove Collection, there will be a superb selection of Navajo Teec Nos Pos rugs, many of which have been published and exhibited extensively. Also rich in the sale from that collection will be a dozen or more Rio Grande blankets, as well as classic Navajo blankets, transitional and pictorial examples. From an Oklahoma Collection will be four Navajo classic period textiles: three second and third phase chief's blankets and a woman's manta, one of the best of its type. The latter is estimated at $80,000-120,000. From another Oklahoma consignor will come a series of bold and vibrant Germantown Navajo rugs. There will also be offerings from a Georgia Estate, including several classic period Navajo wearing blankets.

Basketry will be bountiful in the sale with a brilliant display of Chumash, Mission and other mostly California-region baskets from Part Two of the Jim and Lauris Phillips Collection. Various consignors have also contributed select Washoe, Pomo and Apache examples.

From the Plains/Plateau/Woodlands regions will be a major highlight of the sale: a Plains shield and two painted covers, probably Cheyenne, decorated with dramatic iconography representing colorful thunderbirds, estimated at $150,000-200,000.

Contemporary Native American paintings and sculpture will include bronzes by iconic Apache artist Allan Houser and paintings by Fritz Scholder, the most notable of which is from Scholder's Dartmouth series. There will also be a gathering of pre-WWII kachina dolls from a Southeast family, and an entire Yeibechai set carved by Navajo woodcarver Clitso Dedman, of a sort that rarely ever comes to market, from an Arizona family.

Also on offer will be a great selection of historical and contemporary jewelry, with pieces by Charles Loloma, Jesse Monongye, Denise Wallace and other artists. Historic jewelry will be represented by a group of heavy silver squash blossom necklaces, and a cross necklace deaccessioned by a major Northwest Museum.

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