parfleche envelope, plateau montaine, 19th century Native American Indian antique vintage art for sale purchase auction consign denver colorado art gallery museum
circa 1870
hide with pigments
34 x 16 ½ x 2 ½ inches
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A parfleche container in an envelope form, finely painted in an abstract design. Makes a stunning wall hanging alone or in a grouping with other parfleche or can be placed on a shelf or Stand.

This was created by a North American Indian living in the Plateau cultural area - encompassing portions of what is now northern Idaho, western Montana, northeast and central Oregon, eastern Washington and southeast British Columbia. The tribes from this region include Kalispel, Flathead, Kutenai, Palus, Coeur D'Alene and Nez Perce.

Parfleches are rawhide containers which were fundamental to the Plains way of life. Functioning essentially as protective travelling suitcases, they enabled the nomadic tribes to effectively pursue buffalo herds and migrate between seasonal camps. So critical were they to a nomadic existence that over 40 tribes are known to have historically produced parfleches. Collectively, these tribes inhabited an area which encompassed the entirety of the Plains, as well as the parts of the Southwest, the Transmontane and Western Plateau regions. Parfleches were, out of necessity, robust and versatile objects. They were designed to carry and protect within them anything from medicinal bundles to seasonal clothing or food. In fact, it was because of the containers? robusticity and variety that parfleches earned their name in the Anglo world. Derived from parer (to parry or turn aside) and fleche (arrow), the word parfleche was coined by 17th century French Canadian voyageurs and used to describe indigenous objects made from rawhide. Despite their common utilitarian function, parfleches served as one of the major mediums through which Plains Indian tribes could develop their long-standing tradition of painting. In fact, it is in large part due to the parfleche that tribal style emerged. Even though parfleche painting developed simultaneously with beading and weaving, painting as an artistic tradition held particular importance in tribal culture. Believed to have evolved from tattooing, it had always been used as a conduit through which tribal and individual identity could be expressed. As such, many tribeswomen were deeply committed, some even religiously, to decorating their parfleche either with incised or painted motifs that were significant to them and/or the tribe. For some tribes, such as the Cheyenne, the decorative processes which surrounded parfleche production were sacred. For others, it seems that their parfleche designs shared an interesting artistic dialogue with their beadwork, indicating a more casual exchange of design motifs. This particular relationship can be seen in Crow parfleche/beadwork motifs. Nevertheless, each tribe contributed a unique element to parfleche design. The painted and carved motifs we see today vividly demonstrate just how highly evolved the Plains artisans? sense of color palette and spatial composition was. In recent decades, this appreciation for parfleche painted designs has inspired many modern artists.

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