About This Artwork

West-central Arizona, United States

Basketry Olla Depicting Humans, Dogs, Horses, and Saguaro Cacti, c. 1930

Willow and devil's claw plant fibers
40.6 x 45.7 cm (16 x 18 in.)

Curatorial Discretion and Mrs. Leonard Florsheim funds, 2015.4

The 1930s, when this Yavapai basket was created, marked the last period in which significant traditional North American Indian basketry was made. The production of major basketry had flourished in the Far West since the remote time of early migrations–long before pottery was invented and long before sedentary life–when people lived by hunting and gathering. This ancient pattern persisted in the remote desert basins and mountains of the Great Basin and adjacent lands until the early 20th century.

Among the Yavapai, whose homeland lies in west-central Arizona, basketry was an important craft. Yavapai artists made burden baskets, trays for winnowing and parching seeds, water bottles, and containers for boiling food with the aid of heated rocks. The present basket has a bold positive-negative organization, defined by large triangular compartments containing abstract silhouette of standing anthropomorphic figures, diverse animals, cacti, diamond shapes, and diminutive cruciform designs. It presents an exceptionally expert example of the weaver’s skill, creating a controlled yet dynamic design by balancing the highest quality of jet-black Devil’s Claw against an elegant light willow.

— Permanent collection object description

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Publication History

Richard Townsend with Elizabeth Pope. 2016. Indian Art of the Americas at the Art Institute of Chicago. Art Institute of Chicago and Yale University Press, pg. 79, cat. 53 (ill.).

Ownership History

Sold by an unknown dealer, Prescott, Az., to a private collector, Az., early 20th century [personal communication from Terry DeWald in curatorial file]; consigned to Terry DeWald, Tuscon, Az., August, 2014; sold to the Art Institute, 2015.

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