Chilkat dancing blanket Northwest Coast
Tlingit people, southern Alaska, early 20th century
Height: 119.5 cm; width; 157.5 cm
Provenance: Purchased by Governor Eben Draper on his 1911 Alaskan adventure; John McInnis Auctioneers, Hopedale, 8th July 2016, lot 40.
Condition: Good, with a small area of moth damage, strong color
A fine example of the intricate weaving techniques of the Northwest tribes, decorated with masks and curvilinear graphic symbols, with characteristic long fringe. This blanket was purchased by Governor Eben Draper of Massachusetts, while he was on his ‘Alaskan Adventure’ in 1914 and is thought to be a bride’s blanket. The long wool fringing is typical of these blankets and is thought to be designed to enhance the movement of the wearer as they dance, hence the reason behind these blankets also being known as Chilkat Dancing blankets.
Chilkat blankets are so named because they are made through a process of Chilkat weaving, which in turn derives its name from the Chilkat tribe in Klukwan, Alaska, on the Chilkat River. It is known to be one of the most complex weaving techniques in the world and is distinctive in the curved forms created within the weave itself. Chilkat blankets often feature stylized facial features, clan crests and animals with predominantly yellow and black colour schemes. They are worn by the Tlingit, Haida, Tsimshian and other Northwest people of Alaska and British Columbia, specifically by high- ranking members of the tribe and on ceremonial occasions.
It is important to note that “Chilkat blankets are neither illegal to buy nor illegal to sell in the private sector. They never have been. Historical accounts dating as far back as the mid-19th century indicate that Chilkats were made for commercial sale. In fact, reports indicate that in the mid-19th century they cost as much as $30 dollars to own. (This substantial sum was close to a year’s pay for an officer in the United States army at that time.)” (Culture Property News, Thomas Cleary, Chilkat Blanket Return: Myths, Legends and Facts, May 2018)
comes with an extensive collection of ephemera, including of telegrams and correspondence from the trip, and a 1930’s photo album featuring the blanket hanging above a doorway in his residence.