- United States
Artist not known, Navajo, United States
Length: 71in. Width: 54 in.
Gift of Mrs. Charles Macallister Willcox, 1937.306
Photograph © Denver Art Museum 2012. All Rights Reserved.
About the Artist
This blanket/rug was likely the work of a female Navajo artist. Loom weaving was a woman’s art among the Navajos after they learned the skill from their Pueblo neighbors in the 1600s, but today both men and women weave.
Navajo weavers are justly famous for the excellence of their textiles. This style, known as an eyedazzler because of its vivid colors and dizzying design combinations, was popular during the later years of the Transitional period in Navajo weaving (1868–90), when artists began weaving for the tourist market rather than solely for home use. Brightly colored “Germantown” yarns, widely available through newly established trading posts on the Navajo Reservation, made it possible to produce these vibrant masterpieces.
What Inspired It
During the Transitional period (1868–90) when this blanket/rug was created, Navajo weavers began to produce patterns compatible with the tastes of traders and patrons. Eyedazzler weavings are uniquely Navajo innovations, created to take advantage of a range of commercially made colors not previously available. In some ways you can think of these artists as testing a new product on a new audience.
Although this rectangular weaving is called a blanket or a rug, the decorative fringe and cotton warp (cotton is less durable than wool) suggest that its maker knew it was more likely to be displayed on a wall than used as clothing.
The red wool used throughout the background is a kind of commercially manufactured yarn called Germantown, named after a town in Pennsylvania that produced these yarns using synthetic dyes.
Navajo artists borrowed the serrated diamond motif from New Mexican Saltillo serapes. The Navajo people became familiar with the motif when they were incarcerated at Bosque Redondo in New Mexico (1863–68), where they received Saltillo-style blankets from the United States government.
Five flags appear in this eyedazzler. Notice how the artist used them to mimic the look of the American flag but not duplicate it exactly. Navajo weavers of this time often used flags in their textiles as design elements to appeal to non-Navajo customers.
Artists often included cross-shaped designs in their eyedazzlers. Despite the obvious association with Christianity, these designs may have been derived from traditional Navajo women’s dresses.