Plains Indian decorated saddle blankets : development of an innovative art form Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/tt44pr69c

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  • The decorated saddle blankets that are part of many museum collections are a distinctive facet of Native American culture. They exhibit the craftsmanship and artistic merit that characterize the Plains art style. This study examines decorated saddle blankets from three viewpoints. An historical overview suggests that although the horse and horsegear originated with Spanish occupation of the New World, the Plains decorated saddle blanket was an indigenous innovation. Available literary and pictorial information for Hispanic horsegear indicate that Spanish traditions of decoration did not include saddle blankets of the types found among Plains peoples. Saddle blankets are examples of the material culture of the Plains. In this respect they have been examined in terms of materials, construction, decoration, and use. Verbal and pictorial information, as well as extant examples provided information. Saddle blankets exhibit characteristics of shape and decorative style that are related to region and specific groups. They used both native and introduced materials and techniques. With some exceptions, they appear to have been made by and for women. As works of art, saddle blankets are part of a tradition that stressed the importance of the horse to Plains culture and used horse decoration to provide social messages about the rider to onlookers. This tradition included gender specific art styles, elaborate horse gear as a sign of wealth and generosity, and personal skill as a means of acquiring prestige. Decorated blankets are an example of a functional object achieving artistic value, alone and in combination with other objects.
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