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65. Wearing blanket. Arizona, Navajo, 1860 – 70. Tapestry-weave wool, 67½ x 49 in. (171.5 x 124.5 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Mrs. Russell Sage, 1910 (10.107.1). The red 3-ply Saxony yarn was dyed with cochineal.

seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries returned with European goods on outbound journeys from Cádiz. Among the cargo were crimson and scarlet dyed European felted and fulled woolens called bayeta in Spanish and baize in English. As diplomatic gifts and items traded at posts and forts, the red fabrics traveled north from the port of Veracruz with missionaries and other travelers and via the U.S. Army to the American Southwest (until 1821 Mexican territory), where Native American weavers of the Navajo, Hopi, and Zuni tribes had developed complex textile traditions. Prior to the sixteenth century the colors of the clothing and blankets made in the region were rather subdued, and red, in particular, was rare. Local weavers had for millennia relied on plant fibers such 38

as yucca and cotton, which could not be easily dyed. (Animal skins, another type of material used for certain special garments and ritual items, could on the other hand be decorated with color painted on their surface.)34 After the Spanish brought the Old World breed of Churro sheep to the area in the mid-sixteenth century, sheep’s wool entered the weavers’ vocabulary and new color possibilities emerged, since the fiber could be dyed more intensely and with a greater range of dyestuffs, which eventually included cochineal. Native American weavers were also able to incorporate brilliant reds into their textiles by utilizing dyed yarns that came via trade with Europeans. The native weavers also salvaged crimson and scarlet

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Cochineal Red: The Art History of a Color  

Elena Phipps The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, Winter 2010 Volume LXVII, Number 3 Copyright © 2010 by The Metropolitan Museum of Art,...

Cochineal Red: The Art History of a Color  

Elena Phipps The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, Winter 2010 Volume LXVII, Number 3 Copyright © 2010 by The Metropolitan Museum of Art,...

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