Representations of the human form are very
rare among Eskimo Tribes.
The few survivng examples, like those shown below, are all strikingly
modern, bearing a
strong resemblance to the works of Twentieth Century modernist sculptors
Human Face Masks ( above and below )
Inupiak, Pt. Hope - Pt. Barrow?, Circa 1830 - 1870 8 1/2" H
Carved of burly driftwood, these masks illustrate
the adaption of available resources to the necessary task at hand. Very
naturalistically carved, the human faces here simply and accurately represent
the subtle modeling of Eskimo facial features. The teeth insert in the
lips and are possibly symbolic of a specific spirit or other representation
which would be known and recognized by the local audience. Specific occasions
such as whaling rituals and festivals of the dead called for the appearance
of masked images representing the spirits responsible for the protection
and movement of game animals.
More carefully modeled than most, these masks show the refinement of sculptural
intent attained by early carvers in less-than-ideal sections of wood using
relatively primitive tools and techniques. Though perhaps not the equivalent
of 19th or 20th century carving tools, steel-bladed adzes and knives have
been utilized by Eskimo craftsmen for over a thousand years, as evidenced
by archeological finds and the careful examination of the tool marks left
on ancient ivories from the Old Bering Sea culture of two thousand years
ago. These steels are presumed to have come from Asian centers of metalurgy
in China, Japan, or Siberia, and made their way to the northern coasts
in native trade.
Provanance (above): Ron Nasser, Inc
Mask, carved wood with insert Walrus ivory teeth.
Ca. 1880's H.
: George Terasaki
Mask, carved wood
H. 3 Circa : 1840
from Judith Hilberg Collection
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