They Wove for Horses: Diné Saddle Blankets
March 25, 2012 through August 18, 2013
A Navajo Indian and His Mount
A Navajo Indian and His Mount, Wyatt Davis, ca. July 1939, Courtesy Palace of the Governors Photo Archives (NMHM/DCA), negative number 132451
Navajo Woman on Horseback
Navajo Woman on Horseback , Ferenz Fedor, ca. 1946-52, Courtesy Palace of the Governors Photo Archives (NMHM/DCA), negative number 101697
They Wove for Horses: Diné Saddle Blankets opens at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture on March 25, 2012 (on long-term view). The exhibition highlights both the textile-weaving proficiency of Diné weavers who produced complex saddle blankets for all occasions and the design skills of Diné silversmiths who created dazzling headstalls of silver and turquoise.
The saddle blankets on exhibit date from 1860 to 2002 and are arranged by weaving methods: tapestry weave; two-faced double weave; and twill weaves of diagonal, diamond, and herringbone patterns. By using a variety of warp and weft yarns—natural wool, cotton, angora mohair, unraveled bayeta, and Germantown—weavers added individuality to the everyday and fanciful tapestries they created for horses.
Horse trappings on exhibit reveal the great pride that Diné horsemen took in their horses and how they adorned them for ceremonial and social events. The Diné first learned how to manufacture saddles and bridles from neighboring cultures and their proficiency quickly surpassed that of their mentors. That devotion resonates still, as the horse remains a viable living force in Diné life today.
Spider Woman Cross Style Saddle Blanket
Tapestry- and diagonal twill-weave single saddle blanket, Spider Woman Cross style, 1880–90 Handspun wool and three-ply Germantown wool H. C. Yountz Collection, courtesy of John and Linda Comstock and the Abigail Van Vleck Charitable Trust (9052/12)