Native American, Plains, Cheyenne, reservation period, ca. 1850 CE. A very large tipi (also tepee and teepee) liner comprised of 5 large stitched brain-tanned buffalo hide panels that were sinew sewn and painted with geometric motifs. This is a liner rather than a cover that was intended for a 14 to 16 foot tipi. The decorative program is comprised of 9 vertical stylized columns, each one with a double outline in cornflower blue, a central yellow band and 4 diamond-shaped motifs comprised of opposing triangles in russet red and cornflower blue with a blue outlined yellow square at the center punctuating the central yellow band. A tipi liner is similar to a grand curtain hung on the tipi's lower walls to provide protection from drafts and rainwater as well as to create another layer of privacy. This example, with its attractive geometric motifs was likely painted by women (see below). Size: 350" L x 78.75" H (889 cm x 200 cm)
According to Josh Garrett-Davis' review of the Brooklyn Museum's 2011 exhibition entitled "TIPI: Heritage of the Great Plains" (The Brooklyn Rail: Critical Perspectives on Arts, Politics, and Culture), when liners are created by women, their decorations are traditionally geometric motifs; however, when painted by men, they usually represent pictorial narratives of battle scenes commemorating courageous exploits that are largely autobiographical. Given the geometric decorative program on this tipi liner, we gather that it was painted by women. See a Cheyenne painted muslin tipi liner with painted geometric motifs in the Portland Art Museum (2003.65.7).
A pictorial painted muslin (rather than hide) tipi liner sold at Christie's East for USD 32,200 (1998, sale 8181, lot 501).
Provenance: private Glorieta, New Mexico, USA collection; collected approximately 50 years ago in Wyoming by a former tipi maker
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There are 3 large ovoid repairs, about 12-15 unrepaired tears, about 12-15 unrepaired perforations, several missing ties (2 from the top, 6 from the bottom, 8-10 from the sides), scuffs, minute punctures, and staining that is most evident along the lower body of the piece (more visible on the verso). The painted designs are nice and vivid.