First Phase Chief’s Blanket
First Phase Chief’s Blanket is a contemporary Navajo weaving in the traditional First Phase Style with Cochineal Indigo. The major dyes, if not the only two iconic dyes of the Classic Navajo weaving period are indigo and cochineal, a mystic blue and a vibrant red. The weaver is Betty Joe. It measures 4′ x 5′.
Navajo Chiefs Blankets are the most recognizable and valuable of all Navajo weavings. A Navajo Chiefs Blanket could be purchased for around fifty dollars in the early 1800’s, one thousand dollars by the turn of the nineteenth century, and today, a Chiefs blanket in excellent condition, could sell for half a million dollars or more.
Navajo Chiefs blankets come in four phases, along with variants. Chiefs blankets are constructed in a wider than long format.
The First Phase Navajo Chiefs Blanket is simple with indigo blue stripes and white and brown natural churro wool.
With probably less than 100 First Phase Navajo Blankets in existence today, these are the most valuable and rarest of the Navajo Blankets. Ironically, one of these was found on the Antiques Road Show in Tucson, Arizona. Because of the simplicity of the piece, the owner didn’t realize this family heirloom had a great deal of value.”A blanket of this quality and age” according to Dr. Sublette “should bring $500,000 or more in today’s market.”
The Second Phase Navajo Chiefs Blanket has the addition of twelve boxes or rectangles laid down on a first phase chiefs blanket pattern.
The second phase navajo chiefs blankets are the next transition in Navajo aesthetics. Second Phase Blankets are also very rare but more common in comparison to the First Phase Blankets.
The Third Phase Navajo Chiefs Blanket, for many collectors, may be the most artistic of the Chiefs Blankets. Composed of nine diamond or Cross formations, these blankets were made in the 1860 to 1880 time frame.
There is an ageless beauty to Navajo weaving. Navajo weavings are many things to people. Above all else, Navajo weavings are masterworks, regardless of whose criteria of art is used to judge them. They are evocative, timeless portraits which, like all good art, transcend time and space. Navajo weaving has captured the imagination of many not only because they are beautiful, well-woven textiles but also because they so accurately mirror the social and economic history of Navajo people. Succinctly, Navajo women wove their life experiences into the pieces.
Navajo people tell us they learned to weave from Spider Woman and that the first loom was of sky and earth cords, with weaving tools of sunlight, lightning, white shell, and crystal. Anthropologists speculate Navajos learned to weave from Pueblo people by 1650. There is little doubt Pueblo weaving was already influenced by the Spanish by the time they shared their weaving skills with Navajo people. Spanish influence includes the substitution of wool for cotton, the introduction of indigo (blue) dye, and simple stripe patterning. Besides the “manta” (a wider-than-long wearing blanket), Navajo weavers also made a tunic-like dress, belts, garters, hair ties, men’s shirts, breechcloths, and a “serape-style” wearing blanket