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 and artists.



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
(below)
Mask, carved wood with insert Walrus ivory teeth. Ca. 1880's
H. 8 in
Provanance : George Terasaki





Mask, carved wood
H. 3 Circa : 1840
from Judith Hilberg Collection

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