First Arts: Inuit & First Nations Art

May 28, 2019

LOT 25

Lot 25


Lot 25 Details
UNIDENTIFIED, Tlingit, Chilkat Kwaan


wool, yellow cedar bark and dyes
c. 1880
52 x 68 in — 132.1 x 172.7 cm

Estimate $25,000-$35,000

Realised: $26,400
Price Includes Buyer's Premium ?

Lot Report

Additional Images

a Toronto private collection; Equinox Gallery, Vancouver


The technique of twined tapestry known as Chilkat weaving is one of the most complex styles of fabric decoration known in the world. Oral history tells us that the specialized braiding techniques that enable the weaving of circles and other rounded forms found in Northwest Coast two-dimensional design were developed by Nishga’a weavers in the Nass River valley, sometime around the middle of the eighteenth century. Within a few generations, basic design forms had been mastered and refined into accurate reproductions of painted crest images in woven form. Before the first decades of the nineteenth century, the characteristic five-sided border shape and distribution of complex formline imagery had evolved into the classic form as seen in the subject work. The weavings were made to duplicate design forms painted on wood panels with just over half of a symmetrical design represented. The weaver measures off this pattern board row by row to recreate the interconnected design forms of the painting.

Pattern boards were traditionally painted by men trained in the profession by master artists before them. Many unique patterns were used to create one-of-a-kind images in the first half of the nineteenth century, of which a number of examples survive in the world’s museums. By mid-century the pandemics of introduced diseases diminished the indigenous population, including skilled artists, and fewer unique pattern boards were being created. Single boards would be reproduced numerous times in weavings, sometimes with small changes adapted by the weaver. The lower center of the design field in this Naaxein is an example of that, where design elements from a different robe have been grafted into the mouth area of this weaving to distinguish it from others using the same or a similar original pattern. Here the design represents a diving whale; the head of the whale is shown at the bottom, and the tail across the top of the field.

Steven C. Brown

References: Cheryl Samuel, The Chilkat Dancing Blanket (Univ. of Oklahoma Press, 1990); see also the section on Chilkat blankets in George Thorton Emmons and Frederica de Laguna, The Tlingit Indians (AMNH and Univ. of Washington Press, 1991) pp. 224-233. For another example see also Walker’s May 2017, Lot 53.

First Arts: Inuit & First Nations Art Auction


For condition information please contact the specialist.

LOT 25

About Condition Ratings

  • 5 Stars: Excellent - No discernable damage, flaws or imperfections
  • 4 Stars: Very Good - Minor flaws or imperfections visible only under close inspection using specialised instruments or black light
  • 3 Stars: Good - Minor flaws visible upon inspection under standard lighting
  • 2 Stars: Fair - Exhibits flaws or damage that may draw the eye under standard lighting
  • 1 Star: Poor - Flaws or damage immediately apparent under standard lighting (examples: missing components, rips, broken glass, damaged surfaces, etc.)

Note: Condition ratings and condition details are the subjective opinions of our specialists and should be used as a guide only. Waddington’s uses due care when preparing condition details, however, our staff are not professional restorers or conservators. Condition details and reports are not warranties and each lot is sold “as is” in accordance with the buyer’s terms and conditions of sale. In all cases the prospective purchaser is responsible for inspecting the property themselves prior to placing a bid.