Navajo sandpainting rug

The textile offered here is a very rare early sandpainting rug. It represents the 8th day of the Nightway Ceremony.


The Navajo believe that people should be in balance with the natural world around them. Illness and other woes are an indication of a disruption in this harmony. To restore it, the traditional Navajo family hires a medicine man to perform a ceremony or ceremonies, often transpiring over many days. At the height of these ceremonies, the medicine man draws a very specific design in colored sand. We refer to these as "sand paintings". Afterward, the sands are disposed of ritually and the details of the designs remain confidential. Otherwise, the Navajo believe, harm will come to those who reveal these designs.


Trade in Navajo textiles to Anglos throughout the country blossomed when the railroads arrived in the Southwest in the 1880s. By the 1920s, it was well established. Collectors wanted ceremonial images represented in Navajo textiles but of course, they were forbidden. There were a few weavers who took the risk, altering a few details but basically representing the general form of the designs. These textiles were woven in secrecy and the traders sold them discreetly.


There is another, very similar, version of this sandpainting rug (pictured above) in the Salisbury House in Des Moines, Iowa. Documentation of that rug shows that Carl Weeks, the owner of Salisbury House, commissioned the sand painting rug from Ed Davies in Two Gray Hills  in 1923. Davies delivered it to him in 1924. These two sandpainting rugs are undoubtably by the same weaver or family of weavers. They vary slightly in detail, as would be expected. 


Provenance is available. Condition is excellent.

Dealer Marcy Burns American Indian Arts LLC
Date: 1920-1930s
Origin Navajo
Artist/Maker unknown weaver
Measurements 46" wide x 53" long
Inventory View Dealer's Inventory
Price $25,000.
Contact Marcy Burns Schillay, 212-439-9257 or

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