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American Indian Art

Including Property from

The Collection of Frieda and Milton Rosenthal


10 AM, May 20, 2009

Sale 8554

Sioux Pictorial Buffalo Robe

Lot 22, Sioux Pictorial Buffalo Robe, 100 by 90 inches

By Carter B. Horsley

Upper Missouri River pony beaded hide blanket strip

Lot 24, Early and rare Upper Missouri River Pony Beaded Hide Blanket Strip, 64 by 11 inches

Lot 24 is a relatively simple but quite lovely, blue and white beaded high blanket strip that had once been given by

Barry Goldwater of Arizona to the Smoki Museum. It is 64 inches long and 11 inches wide at its greatest width.

The catalogue provides the following commentary:

"Through the mid-19th Century, bison skin robes were the most common upper garment worn by males, and the only winter garment for either sex. For ease in fleshing and tanning, hides were usually split down the center and resewn. The lanket stripe, developed as a soloution to hide the seam which was created in the process became an important part of Native costiume as well as status symbol. Blanket strips were in use long before artists such as George Catlin and Karl Bodmer arrived in the West in the 1830s and documented them in their drawings and paintings. Strips were originally decorated with porcupine quills but by the late 18th or early 19th Century Native artisans were incorporating large globular glass beads from Venice, also known as 'pony beads' as seen in this example. Pony-beaded material that predates 1850, as this strip does, is extremely rare; this blanket strip is one of four known to exist."

The lot has an estimate of $100,000 to $150,000.

Of 221 offered lots, 62.4 percent sold for $2,681,697. David Roche, senior consultant for the department, said that "Today we saw that exceptional pieces attract active bidding and achieve strong prices," adding that "though bidders were selective, rare works continue to be sought after by collectors."

Nez Perce painted high parfleche envelope

Lot 36, Nez Perce painted hide parfleche envelope, 26 1/2 inches long

One of the most colorful American Indian objects is the "parfleche" envelope, made of hide and painted in bright geometric patterns. This auction has several fine examples include Lot 36, a Nez Perce envelope that is 26 1/2 inches long and has an estimate of $5,000 to $7,000.

The auction includes several lots from the collection of Frieda and Milton F. Rosenthal, who were well-known collectors not only of American Indian Art but also of African and Oceanic Art. Mr. Rosenthal was a lawyer andt he former chairman and CEO of Englehardt Minearals and Chemicals and Mrs. Rosenthal was chair of the advisory council to the department of Art History & Archaeology at Columbia University for over 20 years. She also served as chair of the Commission of the National Museum of African Art of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and was a vice chair, trustee and chair of the acquisitions committee of the Brooklyn Museum. Mr. Rosenthal was also a trustee of Mt. Sinai Hospital where the Frieda and Milton F. Rosenthal Coronary Care Unit is named for the couple.

Hopi polychromed wood kachina doll

Lot 52, large Hopi polychromed wood kachina doll, depicting Hemis, 24 1/2 inches high

Lot 52 is a large Hopi polychromed wood kachina doll, depicting Hemis, from the Rosenthal collection. It is 24 1/2 inches high and has an estimate of $15,000 to $20,000.

Northwest Coast Polychromed Wood Ceremonial Dance Rattle

Lot 57, Northwest Coast Polychromed Wood Ceremonial Dance Rattle, 13 1/2 inches long

Another Rosenthal piece is Lot 57, a finely carved Northwest Coast Polychromed Wood Ceremonial Dance Rattle with a superb patina. It is 13 1/2 inches long and is of the "raven" type. "It is carved in the shape of that bird, with upraised tail forming another bird's head and with a reclining man on the back. Uusually the man's tongue is protruding and held by hebeak ofthe 'tail bird' or by a frog, which either sits on the man's chest or is itself bitten by the tail-fird. In this very old raven rattle the tail-bird was broken off long ago and thebreak roughly reshaped, so that there is no way to know how it related to the man's tongue. The meaning of this peculiar arragnement has been debated over the years, and we are no closer now to understanding it. Recorded Indian traditions of the origin of he rattles do not shed light on it. Most scholars agree that the tongue held by frog or bird probably signifies a communication or transfer of power. This leads to the assumption that the raven rattle originated as a shaman's implement. In historic times, however, it has been a dancing rattle, used by a noble person performing with the frontier headdress...."

It has an estimate of $35,000 to $45,000. It sold for $74,500.

Tlingit Polychromed wood comb

Lot 59, Tlingit Polychromed Wood Comb, 9 3/4 inches high

A third Rosenthal object of note is Lot 59, a Tlingit polychromed wood comb that is 9 3/4 inches high. It is the cover illustration of the catalogue and was acquired from Christie's in London in June, 1983. It has an estimate of $60,000 to $80,000. It sold for $146,500.

Kakiutl polychromed wood finial

Lot 67, Kwakiutl Polychromed wood finial, 30 inches high

Lot 67 is a very large and imposing Kwakiutl polychromed wood finial that presumably depicts a bald eagle. It is 30 inches high. It has an estimate of $40,000 to $60,000.

Kwakiutl painted and carved wood chest

Lot 68, Kwakiutl Painted and Carved Wood Chest, 15 1/2 inches high and 16 1/2 inches wide

Lot 68 is a quite magnificently colored and carved Kwakiutl wood chest that is 15 1/2 inches high. It has a modest estimate of $25,000 to $35,000.

Kwakiutl sun mask

Lot 69, Large Kwakiutl Polychromed Wood Sun Mask, 17 3/4 inches high

Lot 69 is an impressive Kwakiutl polychromedwood sun mask that is 17 3/4 inches high.

The catalogue entry by Steven C. Brown provides the following commentary:

"Among the Kwakwaka'wakw of northern Vancouver Island and the adjacent mainland, the sun is a representation that is fairly often encountered in masks, totem poles, and housefront decoration. The sun is a crest emblem, a type of image that symbolizes family history, and is a highly valued element of the inherited prerogatives that are passed down from one generation to another through the potlatch system. The relatively wide dispersal of the sun emblem in numerous families and villages may suggest that it is a very old crest symbol, distributed through a broadly spreading family tree by marriage and direct inheritance. This mask, like others of its type symbolizes the sun through its employment of an encircling corona that represents rays of light emanating outward from the central face. The nine rays of this mask are short and rounded, a characteristic of earlier versions of the representation. More recently made and contemporary sun masks have tended to employ a larger coronna and/or long, narrow rays in an effort to produce a larger and more imposing image. The central face of many sun masks, including this one, carved in the form of a humanhoid bird with a strongly recurved beak. This is often described as presenting a hawk or a thunderbird, though other interpretations may also be possible depending on individual family traditions. The sculpture and painting of this mask are in the style of a well-known career of the turn of the twentieth century, Charles James of Alert Bay, British Columbia, whose common Kwakwala names were Yakudlas and Dak'uma. A Kwakwaka'wakw, he was sometimes referred to as 'One-Armed James' due to the disuse of his left arm, the result of a severe hand injury early in his life. Nonetheless, he was a prolific and highly accomplished artist, producing a wide array of traditional work well into the first decades of the twentieth century....Charlie James's most remarkable work is perhaps the interior totem pole he carved for the Christi Church Cathedral in Victoria, B.C. ....This finely finished and beautifully conceived totem pole includes a thunderbird and a bear holding an asymmetrically arranged killer whale that reaches across the composition from left to right. The whale's pectoral and dorsal fin protrude from one side of the pole, while its head extends outward on the other."

The lot has an estimate of $150,000 to $250,000. It sold for $266,500, the highest price in the auction.

Tsimshian wood crest headdress

Lot 75, Polychromed Wood Crest Headdress, Tsimshian, with birch, abalone and copper, 16 inches long

Lot 75 is a16-inch-long Tsimshian polycrhomed wood crest headdress that is carved at its front with an animal's head of probably a bear or wolf composedof birch, abalone and copper.

The catalogue includes the following commentary by Steven C. Brown:

"Clan hats on the Northwest Coast include a broad range of sculptural types and manifestations. Some are woven spruce-root hats with painted crest-emblem designs and often status rings atttached and some of these further have sculptural embellishments in the form of animal heads or dorsal fine fastened on the hat. Wooden hats that are essentially versions of the woven hat shape vary from ones with just painted, or painted and carved, crest-emblem designs to examples with sculptural protrusions integral to the hat. These sculptural features often represent the heads and/or body parts of crest animals and are usually displayed in conjunction with two dimentional design details painted and carved into the surface. Another general type bypasses the woven hat form entirely and employs just a sculptural representation of the crest animal image, which has been hallowed out to accept the head of the wearer on the bottom of the carving. The format or composition of the animal figure can vary widely with some including just the salient features like the head and fins or wings, while others include the entire body and limbs of the image. The subject hat is one of the latter type, and is composed as a crouching bear-on-all-fours perched on top of the wearer's head. Several features suggest the Tsimshian attribution fort his sculpture. These include the rounded snout of the hear, the thin lips, the rounded modeling that sugggests an underlying bone structure about the eyesockets and cheeks of the face, the small, thin limbs of the bear, and the extensive use of red (and some white) dashing in thin lines ont he body to represent the long reddish hair of the grizzly. The ears are unnaturalistically large, but their upright, rounded silhouettes reflect the appearance of alert bear's years. Abaloneinlay enhances the eyes and teeth,and the incisors are small pieces of copper sheet inset into the mouth. The blue paint that covers most of the face is atypical characteristic of animal masks from this area, and though this shade of blue is a little darker than it commonly encountered it is within the visual range of variation that exists in the mineral sources of the color....The dashing painted on the body is a feature most commonly seen in the Coast Tsimshian region of the northern Northern Coast. Though it appears in other areas on occasion..., the technique was most commonly employed by Tsimshian artists in a general time period between about 1830 and 1865."

The lot has an estimate of $175,000 to $225,000.

Tsimshian or Haida headdress or frontlet

Lot 76, polychromed wood headdress or frontlet, Tsimshian or Haida, 7 1/2 inches high

Lot 76 is a striking, polychromed wood headdress or front that is either Tsimshian or Haida. It is 7 1/2 inches high. It has an estimate of $60,000 to $90,000.


See The City Review article on Spring 2006 American Indian Art auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2000 American Indian Art Auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Fall 1999 American Indian Art Auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Spring 1999 American Indian Art auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Spring 1998 American Indian art auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Spring 1997 American Indian Art auction at Sotheby's

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