Early Wool On Cotton New Mexican Colcha with Provenance

Item #: 170
Origin: Spanish Colonial made in what is now New Mexico

Date: First Half 19th Century

Media: Cotton base with wool embroidery

Dimensions: 86 x 51.5″

Description: This is a very rare New Mexican colcha most likely made to be a bedspread for a Spanish Colonial household.  Here, wool is embroidered on a cotton twill base, two sections with a seam in the center.  The wool embroidery yarns are all natural dyes. The colors are deep blue, light blue (both indigo), red/pink (cochineal and or lac), light gold, creamy white, and brown. 

The design on this colcha is a mixture of floating floral and animal elements in a folky, playful pattern. The red/pink yarns, with 5 dye tests by David Wenger, show that 1 was 100 % lac and the others were either cochineal or a mixture of lac and cochineal. These red/pink yarns are raveled 2 ply bayeta. This is unique in that most colchas of the period contain machine 3-ply cochineal yarns and not raveled bayeta yarns. This suggest that this may have been embroidered by a Navajo in a Spanish Colonial household.  The indigo and brown yarns are hand spun.

The design on this colcha is based on colchas coming out of Mexico from the 18th and early 19th centuries.  These early, Mexican colchas are highly symmetrical and regimented with layers of patterns expanding from the center outward. This colcha also has a center with balancing images copying each other on each side. There is great variation here from the Mexican colchas and this is exactly what gives the New Mexican colchas their unique and local look. Here we have a much more folky rendition of the same motif.   

There is a center with a four petalled flower.  At the 45-degree points are four birds, three elaborately done and one only a bare hint of a bird shape.  Radiating outward from the flower are groups of Joan Miro like images of leaves, flowers, waves and spirals looking like they are all floating randomly in the field.  Close inspection shows that they are replicating a pattern on each side of the center.  The unique and folky effect is what makes this such a wonderful example.

Provenance: First owned by Amelia Elizabeth White (1878-1872), donated by her to the School of Advanced Research (SAR).  Her home, called “El Delirio” (The Madness) became the home to SAR. SAR deaccessioned the colcha when they chose to dedicate their collection to exclusively Native American material. Mark Winter was the purchaser from SAR and then it sold to Mark Sublet of Medicine Man Gallery.

Condition: This colcha is in original condition. There no holes, rips or tears.  The only loss would be to some areas of the embroidery where small portions have rubbed down to the cotton base.  The indigo woven “dread-lock” type border is 98% present with only 4″ missing.  It is very rare to have this fringed border still present on this early of a colcha.

Price: $38,000



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