This Navajo First Phase Chief’s Wearing Blanket—the rarest type of Navajo blanket and one of the great icons of American Indian Art—which is estimated to bring between $200,000 and 300,000 when it sells at auction in May at Sotheby’s. It comes from the Andy Williams collection, which is expected to fetch in excess of $1 million overall.
NEW YORK –The Andy Williams Collection of Navajo blankets, the celebrated collection that belonged to the singer who died earlier this year, will come to auction May at Sotheby’s in New York.
Williams is widely known for his versions of popular Christmas hits—such as “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” and “White Christmas”—as well as his 1961 hit “Moon River.” In addition to his musical accomplishments Williams also assembled a remarkable and important collection of Navajo blankets that adorned his home, offices and his Moon River Theater in Branson, Mo. They were the subject of the renowned and critically acclaimed 1997-1998 exhibition “Navajo Weavings from the Collection of Andy Williams” at the St. Louis Art Museum.
The collection is led by a Navajo First Phase Chief’s Wearing Blanket—the rarest type of Navajo blanket and one of the great icons of American Indian Art—which is estimated to bring between $200,000 and 300,000. Overall, the collection is expected to fetch in excess of $1 million.
“There are few groups of Navajo blankets in private hands that have the depth and quality of the Andy Williams Collection, said David Roche, senior consultant to Sotheby’s American Indian Art Department. “The comprehensive collection was started several decades ago when Williams was one of just a handful of people looking to acquire such blankets. The striking palette and remarkable detail, as well as the skill and craftsmanship required of the weavers, has placed Navajo Blankets among the very finest and most sought after areas of all American Art.”
While it is thought that Navajo blankets were woven as early as the late 1600s, very few dating from before 1850 have survived. By that time, the blankets were well-established as a trade item throughout large parts of the American West. The going rate for a Navajo chief’s blanket was 100 buffalo hides, 20 horses, 10 rifles or five ounces of gold. Chief’s blankets were expensive—by 1830, they were the most expensive garments in the world, but were known for holding their value and were essential for high-ranking members of the Plains and Prairie tribes.
The undisputed highlight of the collection is the Navajo Man’s Wearing Blanket, woven in a Chief’s First Phase design. Blankets of this type are extremely rare with, only 50 known to exist in museum and private collections worldwide. However, this example is distinguished by a series of thin red stripes overlaying a classic banded ground of natural ivory and brown and rich indigo blue making it a Bayeta First Phase—the rarest type of Navajo blanket of which only 10 are known to exist.
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