With The Revenant set to sweep the table at the upcoming Academy Awards, focus will once again fall on American Indians and the beauty of their culture. Not just in the spritual sense, but also on the asthetic beauty of the objects and materials they produced to work and wear in the course of their daily lives.
On Saturday, February 6, Skinner will offer bidders an opportunity to satify their cravings for American Indian artifacts when they stage their sale of the Van Kirke and Helen Nelson Collection of American Indian Art. And while the Nelsons, as proud Montanans, placed an emphasis on pieces from the Blackfoot and Crow tribes, their collection contains a stunning selection of material from a cross-section of American Indian culture.
The Blackfoot, like the Apache, were known as great warriors. They were a nomadic people, moving frequently to follow the buffalo herds. Lot 131, a Blackfoot beaded and painted antelope hide shirt, was created in 1870, during the lifetime of the great chief Crowfoot, a man who so impressed Sitting Bull he named a child for him.
Its important to remember, when dealing with Indian artifacts, the life these pieces enjoyed before ending up in a catalog page. Whatever beauty they possess is secondary to their practical purpose. Lot 156, a large Blackfoot beaded buffalo hide knife sheath and double-edged dag knife, may be exquisitely designed yet, 150 years ago, was a vital implement used by its owner in a plethora of ways as he traversed his rugged landscape.
The nomadic lives of the Plains Indians were hard, with a need to move at a moments notice of paramount importance. Lots 99 & 105, a pair of Cheyenne hide cradles from the end of the 19th Century, could either be strapped to the mothers back or set up to trail behind her.
Were Indians the original hipsters? With their appreciation of color and inspired use of natural materials, they possessed an ornate sense of style that puts the Williamsburg crowd to shame! Lot 87 - a Lakota pictorial beaded hide vest, is typical of the beautiful clothing they were able to produce.
Lot 103 - Blackfoot trade blanket with beaded hide strip.
Skinners sale of the Van Kirke and Helen Nelson Collection of American Indian Art is set down for Saturday, February 6, and contains finely crafted pieces from tribes including the Blackfoot, Crow, Cheyenne, Lokota, Apache, Sioux, Arapaho, and Kiowa. Look now at the full catalog.