Daily Art Moment: Haudenosaunee / Iroquois artist

Haudenosaunee/Iroquois artist, Pouch, 8 x 4 inches, cotton, silk and glass beads. A photo of a colorful U-shaped pouch with handle against a gray background. The pouch is slightly narrower at the top then widens at the bottom. At the center, set against black velvet is a large, white, beaded flower topped by a pink, beaded flower with pale green, gold, and blue, beaded leaves. Surrounding the flowers are white and brick-red beadwork lines composed of three white beads, two larger brick-red beads, then three white beads. Each line radiates outward from the flowers at center. Two lines of white beading encompasses the center designs running along the edge of the pouch. At the outer edge of the pouch is a red cotton border with loops of gold beads along the sides and turquoise blue beaded loops along the bottom. Some areas of beading are missing at the bottom center and at the left edge. The top of the pouch shows a thin, short, tan cotton handle. Pale blue ribbon embellishes the opening of the pouch but is partially missing, exposing the hand stitching along the pouch’s opening.

This small but ornate pouch represents a very distinctive beadwork innovation created by Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) artists in the mid- to late-19th century. Small fabric bags, pin cushions, photo frames and other purely decorative forms, known as “whimsies,” were beaded with thick layers of stacked beadwork. The artists often favored translucent beads on black or bright colored velvet fabric, which gave these objects an opulent, bejeweled appearance. They were sold by their Haudenosaunee makers to Victorian-era tourists near Niagara Falls. The condition of this pouch is a bit rugged: the blue ribbon embellishment is torn and faded, the red edging has lost some of its vibrancy, and it is missing some beaded fringe. However, it has not lost its charm.

Kathleen Ash-Milby, Curator of Native American Art

Haudenosaunee/Iroquois artist (Haudenosaunee/Iroquois). Pouch, ca. 1850. Pouch: cotton, silk, and glass beads; spoon: Wood Point: Stone Quill: porcupine. The Elizabeth Cole Butler Collection, 2014.14.6a-d

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