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Dark blue woman's cape with floral and geometric design, glass beads and silk ribbon | Donald Ellis Gallery

Woman's Cape


ca. 1840-50

wool broad cloth, glass beads, silk ribbon

height: 61"

Inventory # CW3453


acquired by the Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis, MN


Believed to have been made by Jane Dickson LaFramboise (b. ca. 1820) in 1845, then by descent through the family


Donald Ellis Gallery catalogue, 2007, pgs. 40-41


Coe, Ralph T. Sacred Circles: Two Thousand Years of North American Indian Art. Kansas City: Nelson Gallery of Art, 1977, pls. 127 and 129

This beautiful blanket or cape is believed to have been made by Jane Dickson LaFramboise, a woman of Anishinaabe/Dakota ancestry, born in 1820 in Pembina Territory in western Minnesota. Her maternal grandfather was Robert Dickson, a Scottish-Canadian who became an adopted leader within the Sioux Nation where he was called Mescotopah “the red-haired man”. He fought with the British during the war of 1812 before joining the American Fur Company. In 1845 Jane married Joseph LaFramboise at Traverse des Sioux in what was believed to be the first Christian marriage performed in Nicollet County, Minnesota. The oral tradition states that though theirs was a Christian marriage, this beaded blanket was worn in a native ceremony celebrating the union of Jane and Joseph.

Joseph LaFramboise was the son of a successful half Ottawa, half French  trader on Mackinac Island. In 1832, LaFramboise set up his first trading post in Murray County, Minnesota, and also served as an interpreter in negotiations between the Sioux and the US government. LaFramboise also worked for the American Fur Company under Henry H. Sibley, guiding personalities such as John C. Freemont, Joseph Nicollet and George Catlin out onto the Coteau.

This exceptional textile is composed entirely of materials obtained through the fur trade, a business the LaFramboise family had been involved with for decades. The large wool broadcloth is bordered on three sides with extremely fine silk appliqué decoration, while exuberant beaded foliate designs radiate from the lower corners. Anchoring the composition is a concentric foliate medallion surrounded by a pointed corona suggesting the rays of the sun. The artist’s superb level of craftsmanship and sense of colour combine to create a work of art that is extremely pleasing to behold.

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