DescriptionA PAIR OF RARE SANTA CLARA BEADED HIDE HIGHTOP MOCCASINS
c. 1880 painted overall with white pigment, each with hide strip attached to the back, sinew sewn and finely lane-stitched in blue and black beads against a white beaded ground, with bars and small triangles, rawhide soles
The Dr. Jack and Mary Ann Adams Collection
Heights: 15 inches each, folded
These exceptional Pueblo woman's moccasins pertain to a rare style exclusive to the Tewa-speaking Pueblo of Santa Clara in New Mexico. Dating to approximately the third quarter of the 19th century, this pair parallels the fewer than seven extant examples known to this author, despite decades of researching American Indian footwear. Because of its relative thickness, the moccasins proper are most likely constructed of well-tanned elk hide, as are the thick, tough soles that were processed to be semi-flexible for the intended purpose. Universally it was sinew-- muscle tendon fiber obtained from along either side of the backs of large game animals-deer, elk, buffalo, that when split and twisted furnished the resilient cordage preferred for sewing and executing beadwork. Basically, when worn the upper or "legging" part of the moccasin extends to just below the wearer's knee, where a leather thong secures it around the leg underneath the short, downward-folded "skirt" of hide, as seen in the illustration. This pair exemplifies a genre of American Indian moccasin decidedly uncommon for the Pueblo tribes in general, except for Santa Clara, in that a strip of "lanestitch" beadwork is positioned vertically up the back of each. The Pueblo people did not favor beadwork as a decorative medium. The beadwork on all the known pairs of this type of moccasin incorporates essentially only three colors-white, black and "pony trader blue," a semi-translucent, intermediate shade sometimes known as "Bodmer blue" (after the famous artist Karl Bodmer, who accompanied the Lewis & Clark Expedition launched in 1804). Both white and blue serve as a background color and/or in designs for all the known pairs. Black is used sparingly, and only in the motifs, although medium dark, clear green is remembered as appearing on one pair. Likewise, in all instances the beadwork for such moccasins shares similar designs composed of bars and small triangles. During pre-reservation times, groups of Southern Plains and Montane Indians regularly visited the Rio Grande Pueblos. Therefore it is likely that the influence of their prolific use of beadwork came to bear. The beadwork technique, color choices, and even the design elements closely reflect those of beadwork produced in the early and middle 19th century by those tribes.
Condition report available upon request.
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