Yup’ik mask

North America | Alaska

Yup’ik mask

Alaska

Shamanic mask
Dance mask with animal Yua (spirit) effigy
Yup’ik (Eskimo)
Lower Yukon river, Alaska

Carved wood, feathers, pigments
Circa 1890
Height: 11 &frac1;2 in. – 29 cm
(12 ½ in. – 32 cm including the feathers)

Provenance
Collected in Anvik, Alaska, prior to 1900
Ex collection the Heye Foundation,
Museum of the American Indian, New York
Accession number 19/8765
Echanged with Julius Carlebach in June 1944
Ex collection Harry Klamer, Toronto
Ex collection Perry Lewis, Connecticut

Published: Fine Arts Paris & La Biennale 2022
Yup'ik Mask Heye Foundation 30.5 cm / Galerie Flak Price on request
Yup'ik masks were used by shamans to facilitate communication and movement between worlds (the visible and the invisible, the living and the dead, ...). Ceremonial cycles were notably undertaken to maintain proper human, animal, and spirit-world interactions.
As noted by Sean Mooney (Chief Curator & Director of the New York Rock Foundation), this delicate mask is exemplary of the hybrid styles of Yup’ik carvers from territories inland and further north of the Kuskokwim River. It is recorded as collected in Anvik, Alaska, in the 1890s. The provenience of Anvik, a Yukon River trading location, suggests that it is among the many masks from surrounding Yup’ik villages that were collected by the early Euro-American traders who first went to Alaska to seek their fortunes in the heady days of the Gold Rush, and the vast opportunities expected in trapping, fur trading, gold prospecting, fishing and other activities.
This intensely poetic mask is predominantly formed as a human face. It is presided over by a small animal effigy emerging from its forehead. The human face represents the yua or personal spirit of this being. The protruding « wing » with its hanging entities presents another representation of spiritualized symbolism. It likely refers to a food source, and the abundance being requested in the ceremonial dance when this animal’s spirit was called upon.

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