First phase chief blankets are among the rarest and most visually dynamic of all Navajo textiles. A carefully balanced expression of compressed energy and absolute calm, they are sometimes considered the perfect embodiment of Navajo world view and aesthetics. In these weavings there is no stable foreground and background; rather, the elements continually shift within the compositional field, evoking a complex of harmony and change. The broad horizontal configuration of contrasting and subtly colored bands is not symbolic, but often described as a distillation of the Navajos’ desert plateau and mountain landscape. According to legend, Spiderwoman taught the Navajo to weave, and it is this mythic being, working through the individual weaver, who directs the growth of each textile. The name “chief blanket” refers to the elevated stature of these textiles, which were highly prized by other tribes and eagerly acquired in trade.


  • Title: First Phase Chief Blanket
  • Date Created: ca. 1850
  • Physical Dimensions: w1771.65 x h1295.4 in
  • Type: Textile
  • Rights: Purchase: William Rockhill Nelson Trust, Purchase: William Rockhill Nelson Trust
  • External Link: The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
  • Medium: Handspun wool and indigo dye
  • Culture: Navajo

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