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Burden Basket

Large tan woven basket with dark brown triangles.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • Large tan woven basket with dark brown triangles.




Northern California, United States

About this artwork

Northern California is the ancestral home of numerous Indian tribes, many of which speak different languages yet share a similar culture and an artistic tradition centering on basketry. The Pomo were especially accomplished designers and weavers of baskets for all purposes, and the cone-shaped burden basket is a well-known form in their artistic repertoire. This example is in excellent condition considering both its age and the fact that it was subjected to practical use. (As an object made for utilitarian purposes, it has no sacred or ritualistic functions.) The subtly curving, conical shape is beautifully woven with a diagonal twine; alternating, triangular motifs in dark brown and light tan escalate in size from the narrowest, lower point to the wide, open rim. Serrated lines of uniformly smaller triangles separate the dominant shapes and reinforce the overall sense of spiraling, diagonal movement. This is a very old Pomo graphic convention, for such baskets were seen and described by Sir Francis Drake on his voyage of exploration up the California coast in 1577.

This particular basket, however, is an especially pleasing “classic” in the Pomo visual tradition, amplifying our understanding of a remarkable genre of American Indian art. It also provides an example of basketry’s last great flowering in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when a sweeping vogue for collecting such works accompanied the international Arts and Crafts movement, which in the United States inspired a desire to create a deeply rooted “American” vocabulary of forms in architecture, painting, and sculpture.


On View, Gallery 136


Arts of the Americas




Burden Basket


California (Object made in)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.

Made 1870–1880


Plant fibers


53.3 × 61 cm (21 × 24 in.)

Credit Line

Highland Park Associates

Reference Number


IIIF Manifest  The International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) represents a set of open standards that enables rich access to digital media from libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural institutions around the world.

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Extended information about this artwork

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