• Native America

    Inuit mystery mask

    Q: This came out of a private collection in Illinois. It’s very lite weight measuring 8.5” X 4.5” not including the feathers. Polychrome cedar ceremonial shaman’s mask from the Inuit. I’m a collector. Would you know the age of this and what type of mask is it? It appears to have been used several times in a ceremony of sort. PJ, 1590 A: I do not recognize this at all. Since I am not an expert on any of the Arctic cultures, let’s hope that one of our viewers will make a helpful comment. PJ, since you and the seller both specialize in these kinds of artifacts, perhaps you could…

  • Native America

    Old Inuit mask from Greenland

    Q: Hello, Here are photos of our friend’s Inuit family mask. It was created in the early 1900’s, we are not sure exactly when. Our friend was Eskimo from Greenland and she left us all her family artifacts when she past away 10 years ago. The mask is wood from the center of a tree, you can see the circles. Diane, 1582 A: This is a major find for any first-rate art or anthropological museum. And it comes with family provenance. But please be careful. There are plenty of collectors and dealers who will try to cheat you out of a fair price if you don’t have a good idea…

  • Native America

    Iroquois false face mask

    The False Face Society is probably the best known of the medicinal societies among the Iroquois, especially for its dramatic wooden masks. The design of the masks is somewhat variable, but most share certain features. The eyes are deep-set and accented by metal. The noses are bent and crooked. The other facial features are variable. The masks are painted red and black. Most often they have pouches of tobacco tied onto the hair above their foreheads. Basswood is usually used for the masks although other types of wood are sometimes used. Horse tail hair is used for the hair, which can be black, reddish brown, brown, grey or white. The…

  • Native America

    Southwest Indian mask

    Q: Here’s one I stumbled upon at a thrift shop. It appears to be Pueblo-inspired. It also appears to be a recent creation, perhaps crafted for the tourist trade. Regardless, I think it’s special and wanted to share it with you. Any input you may have is welcomed. Eric, 1516 A: It certainly is special if you collect Native American masks. Though you knew it was a cheap replica, I don’t think you would mortgage your house for the authentic mask I posted at the end. Worse than the high price, you might also be sued by the Hopi people. The following appeared in the press six years ago. “Dozens…

  • Native America

    Eskimo small stone mask

    Q: I found this stone mask in Barrow, Alaska, on the beach and I was wondering if you could help me identify it. It is five inches high. Mechelle, 1501 A: A small stone face found of the beach in Barrow (in the far north) would likely have been made by the Inupiaq people. It is too small to be a real mask. It could have been made by a shaman and placed in a kayak for protection or good luck. Lots of small stone sculptures are made by the Inupiaq for different purposes, the most common being sale to tourists. More information is needed to determine value.

  • Misc,  Native America

    Big NWC Indian mask

    Q:  The mask is about 16 inches tall and about 12 inches wide. I believe it was acquired in the Pacific Northwest by my grandfather 40-or-so-years ago. I’m not sure what he paid for it but I believe it was an original. It was recently bequeathed to me along with 10 other masks from around the world. Kristian, 1455 A: Your mask is original in that it was carved by hand in the Pacific Northwest. I wish I knew what spirit or creature this big mask represent, and what specific culture it comes from. It was made by a lesser carver for sale to tourists. Perhaps someone will send in a…

  • Native America

    Native American Apache Gaan Dancer Mask

    This Apache Gaan dance mask consists of a black cloth head cover with small eye openings and metal outer ‘eyes’. The top tablita part of the dance mask is inventively made of corrugated cardboard with paint. On the lower portion is circular cotton cord with drops holding small feathers. This mask has definitely been danced. It is about 25 inches high. The Apache people are generally thought to be a single tribe of Native American’s, but in actuality, the Apaches are an assimilation of various Apachean tribes that are thought to be a subgroup of Athabaskans, migrating south from Canada and Alaskan regions. While most of these bands of Apache…

  • Native America

    Lost People of the North

    There were people in Alaska and Northern Canada before the Inuit and other Eskimos. They are called Tunit and are long gone. But they have left behind a great deal of artifacts. This very old mask is one of them. The following is from Passing Strangeness– a very interesting website. The first hints that there was once an ancient culture in Canada’s north came from the Inuit who have replaced them. Until modern times they used boulder weirs and caribou channels for hunting, and Inuit folklore says they’d been built by another people whom they called the Tunit. The Tunit themselves appeared in some stories as peaceful giants who would…

  • Native America

    Old Bella Coola mask from the NWC

    An Exceptional Northwest Coast Bella Coola mask British Columbia in the 19th century. Finely carved and quite old, with remains of paint, stabilized insect damage consistent with age and use. Old museum numbers on the back. Provenance: Private Collection, Leipzig, Germany. The price realized by the Cobb Auctioneers was $14,000. Here is some history:  During the 1800s collectors and ethnographers from around the world came to the Northwest Coast of British Columbia to collect items of material culture from what they believed to be the dying races of people who lived there. This process transformed the meaning of ceremonial objects, such as masks, for the people who lived there. Masks…

  • Native America

    Tribal art’s influence on modern art

    A wooden mask from the Yukon River region of Alaska (ca. 1890–1910). To its right: Francis Picabia’s painting, Monstre (1946). The French artist André Breton once owned the Alaskan wooden mask (ca. 1890–1910) that a gallery paired alongside one of Francis Picabia’s monster paintings. Surrealist artists long admired these Yup’ik masks from the central Alaskan coast, which were made in the hopes of divining bountiful hunts. Breton, Man Ray, and Yves Tanguy all collected the masks beginning in 1934. They saw it as Surrealism from another time and place. African masks are not the only tribal art that had an influence on the modern art of Europe. The second mask…