Parflêche tas

Parfleche envelope; Southern Ute; ca. 1875 Rawhide, pigment and native leather; 95 x 40 cm. RMV 362-202; collected by Herman ten Kate on the Southern Ute Reservation, September 1883 Parfleches – containers of folded or sewn rawhide elaborated with painted designs over the exposed surfaces – constitute one of the great traditions of North American Indian painting. Created almost exclusively by women and used for the storage and transport of food and belongings, these light, unbreakable, weather resistant containers were integral to the nomadic life of Great Plains, Plateau and Intermontane peoples. Rawhide containers had their origins in pre-contact times as a logical development and resource for hunting cultures. They evolved as a major artistic form in the eighteenth century along with the emergence of Plains culture, with its basis on the horse, buffalo hunting and a material culture that supported the constant camp movements required in following migrating herds. The designs, techniques and materials of the painting tradition itself derived from the Northeastern Woodlands, Western Great Lakes and Prairie regions. The name parfleche is a French Canadian term derived from the words, parer (to turn aside or parry) and fleche (arrow), referring to Indian shields made of heavy rawhide. Parfleches were made from the untanned hides of buffalo, elk, horse and, as soon as they became available, domestic cattle. Paints were originally of native manufacture; subsequently, commercial pigments obtained in trade were utilized – first in combination with native paints and then replacing them altogether. The paintings were well sized to withstand exposure to the elements and hard use, resulting in colorful designs that usually endured throughout the functional life of the objects. A variety of parfleche types were produced, depending on the function and the traditional association of specific contents. The most common form was the envelope, a flat, rectangular, folded case capable of expansion when filled; these were often made in matched pairs – one for each side of the packhorse. Other forms included flat cases, cylinders and boxes. Ute parfleches are rare. Although others likely exist, the writer is aware of only six envelopes collected from the Ute possessing features that unify them stylistically as a cohesive group. Comparing this small number of identifiable Ute examples with the strikingly beautiful envelope collected by Herman ten Kate yields important information; it affirms our sense of Ute parfleche style and expands our understanding of the varying elements contained within Ute painting. In basic compositions and design components, Ute parfleches are most similar to those of the Jicarilla Apache, with whom they were closely associated. They also have close affinities to rawhide cases produced by the Southern Plains tribes. An analysis of Ute designs suggests a variety of compositional formats were favored. Major forms are outlined in black, and the various colors of interior motifs are usually, but not always, separated by line as well. Compositions often include small black inverted triangles attached to primary elements; others feature groups of parallel, fringe-like black lines extending from or contained within smaller design units. Some compositions include small circles, painted or unpainted, within larger motifs. Unpainted areas are often a significant component of the finished image, and both the application of color and black outlining tend to be rather loosely rendered. It would appear the artists were more intent on the visual power on the painting rather than with exact symmetry and precision. All of these features are readily visible in the Ten Kate envelope parfleche he acquired on the Southern Ute Indian Reservation in southern Colorado in 1883. There are also distinguishing features that set Ute parfleche envelopes apart from those of other tribes. One of the most distinctive, again clearly visible on the Ten Kate envelope, is a “wash” of color outside the delineated design at the ends of the painted panels, extending to the ends of flaps where they join; this element is painted in either red ochre or blue. Another identifying characteristic is the size and shape of Ute envelopes. Nearly all are relatively large, and all are long and narrow in proportion. Four of the seven known envelopes, including the Ten Kate piece, are three feet or more in length, the result of being constructed from a single hide. Also, like the Ten Kate specimen, one of these has stake holes remaining at the ends of the flaps. And, as similar as they may be to those of the Jicarilla Apache, Ute parfleches do not have painted side flaps. Gaylord Torrence Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO 362-202 Southern Ute parflèche; hide, pigments; w. 95 cm., h. 40 cm.; ca. 1870-1880. This parflèche was originally listed as Jicarilla, as it was part of a small collection a Santa Fe trader had bought from a band of Jicarilla Apaches passing through on their way south to internment at Fort Stanton. The trader told Ten Kate that the Indian owner of the rawhide case had told him that he had acquired it in trade from the Southern Utes (undated note of Ten Kate). The anthropologists labeled the parflèche as "hide travel bag." It is painted with geometric designs in green, red and black. Apart from ties securing the frontal flaps, the Leiden parflèche has holes for ties to secure the side flaps. The three attachment-circles for the frontal fastening thongs are reinforced. Spier (1931:297-298) described a parflèche as follows: "an envelope, made by folding in the longitudinal sides of a long rectangular piece of rawhide so that they meet. The short sides of this folded hide are again folded towards each other so that they meet. This provides two flaps, each of which is nearly square, and, when these are lifted, two side flaps are revealed. Each of the front flaps is decorated, the designs being almost identical. The side flaps are less frequently decorated. Sometimes the rear of the parflèche is bounded by a rectangle which connects the decoration of the two front flaps and the two side flaps. The whole design is laid out on the rawhide before it is folded." Rawhide was animal hide that was only treated by drying, stretching, cleaning, and shaving, without being tanned. This left the hide smooth and stiff, but possible to fold as it retained sufficient flexibility when bent at any angle. Thick hides were preferred for rawhide articles, with buffalo skins most prevalent, followed by elk kin and thick deerskin (Douglas 1936:107; Morrow 1975; Torrence 1994:39-58). Parflèches derive their name from the French "pare une flèche" (stops or deflects an arrow). Because of their versatility as containers for food, and also personal possessions, they are encountered throughout the Plains area and beyond the Rocky Mountains. Most are envelope-shaped, as this specimen, although the some Plains tribes made trunk-shaped parflèches. While most of these containers are painted, some show incised designs, notably those from the Crows. Often the envelope-shaped parflèches were made in matching pairs. When used up, parflèches were cut up and used as rawhide soles for moccasins (cf. Douglas 1936; Morrow 1975; Conn 1979:130-132,134; Torrence 1994:passim; Coe 2003:212-213). Spier (1925) noted that designs on Southern Ute parflèches tended to be executed in two equal panels, separated by a double central stripe, and bounded by a double stripe on all other sides. The panels tended to be symmetrically divided into smaller units, often by using triangular designs to break up the central spaces, creating horizontal as well as vertical symmetry. Lines were generally carefully aligned, and a black line usually is painted along the sides on the back of the container. Torrence (1994:157-158) characterized the style of Ute parflèche painting as direct and austere, open and simple. Hovens, 2010. De meest voorkomende parfleche in het centrale deel van Noord Amerika is een rechthoekige gevouwen tas van hard leer met twee gevouwen flappen als openingen. Deze tas werd gebruikt om kleding, voedsel en gereedschap in op te bergen. Waardevolle, medicinale of heilige voorwerpen werden opgeborgen in dit soort rechthoekige tassen met leren franje. Parfleches werden oorspronkelijk gemaakt van eland- en bizonhuid, later werd ook koeien- en paardenhuid gebruikt. Na het villen van het dier werd de huid op de grond, met de harige kant naar beneden, gespanen en vastgezet met houten pennenpinnen. De binnenkant van de huid werd afgeschraapt tot deze overal even dik was en al het vlees en vet waren verwijderd. Daarna werd het decoratief patroon van de parfleche op de nog vochtige huid aangebracht. De patronen werden op de huid getekend met in water oplosbare verf gemengd met lijm. Dit werd aangebracht met een stuk poreus bot of met een "krijtje" van gedroogde verfstoffen /pigment gemengd met lijm. De meeste van de bewaard gebleven parfleches van de Utes lijken geverfd te zijn met westerse verfstoffen, aangezien minerale en platsaardige kleurstoffen kostbaar waren. Een onbekende soort zwarte steen uit de omgeving van Ouray in Utah werd geprezen om de bruinzwarte kleur die gebruikt werd voor het tekenen van de omtrekken van de patronen op de parfleches. Als de huid met de daarop geschilderde patronen was gedroogd, dan werd deze gevernist met prickly pear cactus sap om de tas waterafstotend te maken. Als de vernis droog was werd de huid omgedraaid en het haar werd verwijderd. Dit gebeurde door met stenen over de huid te wrijven. De huid werd hierdoor wat meer flexibel en lichter van kleur, waardoor de beschilderde patronen beter tot hun recht kwamen. De parfleche werd daarna uitgesneden en in elkaar gevouwen voor gebruik. De versiering op de parfleches van de Utes lijkt erg op de parfleches van hun buren, de Jicarilla-Apaches. In het algemeen werd veel gebruik gemaakt van grote onbeschilderde stukken met een patroon in rood, geel, groen en/of blauw (Bates 2000: 148-149). Het harde leer van deze tassen werd op den duur hergebruikt voor zolen van mocassins. De versiering op parfleches lijkt geen symbolische betekenis te hebben, ook niet als deze parfleche in ceremonies werden gebruikt. Soms hadden tassen wel een specifiek ontwerp dat alleen gebruikt werd bij een bepaalde ceremonie.

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