A Navajo classic manta
Lot 1245
A Navajo classic manta
Sold for US$ 125,000 inc. premium
Auction Details
Lot Details
A Navajo classic manta
Finely woven in diamond and diagonal twill, the variegated light blue center flanked by red panels of repeated linear compositions and dark outer borders, in raveled and handspun yarns of lac and cochineal-dyed red, vegetal yellow, green and indigo blue.
size approximately 3ft 10in x 4ft 4in



    "The Lila Matson Manta was purchased by a private collector in February of 1990 from Ms. Lila Matson of San Francisco, California. Ms. Matson was one of the heirs to the Matson Shipping Line. At the time of the private collector's purchase of the manta, Ms. Matson told the private collector that the manta had been given to her by her grandfather, and that her grandfather had collected the manta in Arizona during the 1910s.

    Since 1991, the Lila Matson Manta has been in three private collections, including the current owner's collection.

    All of the red yarns are raveled bayeta dyed with combinations of lac and cochineal. Both the medium blues and the midnight blues are handspun Churro fleece dyed with indigo. The green yarns are raveled green bayeta dyed with combinations of indigo and vegetal dyes; the yellows are raveled yellow bayeta dyed with vegetal dyes. The indigo-dyed yarns in the central panel exhibit an unusual, medium blue color...

    The manta measures 46 inches in length by 51 inches in width, as woven. Condition is excellent with no restorations. A few loose selvage cords exist at the left edge of the manta. Corner tassels and selvages are original and 99% intact. Colors are original and full. The manta retains its original surface sheen. Less than 1% of all Navajo weavings from the classic period (1800-1860) have survived in this condition.

    The weft count is 42 wefts to the inch. The warp count is 16 warps to the inch. Both the warp and weft counts are extremely fine for a Navajo manta, even for a manta from the classic period. The weaver's ability to match the fineness of her handspun yarns to the fineness of her raveled bayeta indicates that she was an experienced weaver. The combination of the manta's fineness of weave, detailed tapestry work, and diamond twilled blue borders all suggest that the weaver produced this manta at the height of her career. While fineness of weave does not, by itself, qualify a classic Navajo blanket as a masterpiece, the majority of the classic Navajo blankets recognized as masterpieces do exhibit extremely fine weaves.

    Navajo blue center mantas from the classic period (1800-1860) are extremely rare. There are three known classic blue center mantas in museum and private collections. One of those three mantas, the Culin Manta in the Brooklyn Museum, is heavily damaged. The Marcus Manta, currently in a private collection, contains 3% overall restoration. The Lila Matson Manta is the only Navajo blue center manta from the classic period in fully original condition.

    Anglo-Americans have been collecting examples of Navajo weaving since the 1840s. Between 1840 and 1900, the age, condition, and yarns of a classic blanket were considered more important than the aesthetic appeal of the blanket. Between 1900 and 1960, the aesthetic attributes of a classic Navajo blanket became more important than they had been during the second half of the nineteenth century but aesthetic considerations remained secondary to age, condition, and yarns.

    Between 1960 and 2000, prices paid for classic Navajo weavings both at auction and through private sales increased dramatically. As prices increased, it became obvious that collectors and dealers were willing to pay premium prices for classic Navajo blankets that qualified as aesthetically pleasing works of art. The aesthetic merits of a classic Navajo blanket became as important as the blanket's age, condition, and yarns.

    During the last twenty years, the market for works of antique Native American art has continued to value aesthetic appeal more highly than materials or condition. In terms of color, composition, and design, the Lila Matson Manta is one of the most visually compelling Navajo blankets in either museum or private collections."

    From an appraisal report written by Joshua Baer, Navajo weaving specialist, May 2009
  1. Jim Haas
    Specialist - Native American
    220 San Bruno Avenue
    San Francisco, 94103
    United States
    Work +1 415 503 3294
    FaxFax: +1 415 503 3300
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