Model Totem Pole

North America | Canada

Model Totem Pole

Canada

Northwest Coast

Carved wood
Circa 1900
Height: 14 ¼ in. (36 cm)

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Kwakiutl Frontlet

North America | Canada

Kwakiutl Frontlet

Canada

Kwakiutl / Bella Coola frontlet
Northwest-coast, British Columbia

Carved wood and pigments
19th century
Length: 6 ½ in. (16.5 cm)

Ex collection Philip Holstein, Aspen, Colorado
Ex collection Charles Murphy, Chicago

Exhibition & Literature:
Beyond Hollywood: Identidades Indígenas Norte-Americanas,
Museu Valencià d’Etnologia(Musée d’Ethnologie de Valence), Espagne, June-Dec. 2018

Published: Voyages… From the North Pacific to the South Pacific in the wake of Captain Cook, 2019
This type of headdress frontlet was part of the ceremonial regalia of a high-ranking individual, in all probability a chief. It was worn during shamanic rituals, dances and ceremonies, especially for potlach.
The bird-man figure at the center of the frontlet is a clan crest and refers to the myths and spirit-guides associated with the possessor’s personal history and that of his family.
The sculpture is powerfully expressive. The painted decoration is sober and reinforces the impression of strength and sacredness that emanates from this ceremonial ornament.
As far as provenance is concerned, this frontlet belonged the antiques dealer Philip Holstein, an expert and museum curator. In the 1970s, he ceded it to Charles Murphy, a Chicago architect who was also a great collector of American Indian art.

Publication

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Reverend Thomas Bankes

Early photographs

Reverend Thomas Bankes

Natives in their Canoes of the Island of Oonalashka on the Northwest Coast of America

Natives in their Canoes of the Island of Oonalashka on the Northwest Coast of America
Vol. 2 p. 114, “New System of Geography – A New Royal Authentic and Complete System of Universal Geography Antient (sic) and Modern…”
Published by Royal Authority
Circa 1775, C. Cooke in London
Original engraving on paper

Height: 9 ½ in.
Width: 6 ¾ in.

Inv. #Am-0833

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John Webber (1752-1793)

Early photographs

John Webber (1752-1793)

Woman of Nootka Sound on the North West Coast of America

Cook’s Third Voyage
Published in 1784-1785, London
Original engraving on paper

Height: 8 ¾ in.
Width: 6 ¾ in.

Inv. #Am-0831

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John Webber (1752-1793)

Early photographs

John Webber (1752-1793)

A man of Oonalashka

Cook’s Third Voyage
Published in 1785, Paris
Original engraving on paper

Height: 9 ½ in.
Width: 6 ¾ in.

Inv. #Am-0832

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Tlingit Rattle

North America | Alaska

Tlingit Rattle

Alaska

Tlingit raven rattle

Carved wood
19th century
Height: 13 ¼ in. (33.5 cm)

Ex collection William Downing Webster (1868–1913), London, inv 3692.L
Ex collection Yves Berger (1931-2004), Paris
Ex Millon et Associés, Art des Indiens d’Amérique du Nord : Collection Yves Berger, April 15th, 2002

According to Allen Wardwell (see Tangible Visions, The Monacelli Press inc., New York, 1996), the rattle is a very important piece of shamanic equipment along the entire Northwest Coast. Its sound provided rhythm for songs, dances and chants, and attracted spirits to the séances. Wherever it was used, a supernatural presence was thought to be in attendance.
Raven rattles, such as the present example, were generally made by the Tlingit, and are the best known form of Northwest Coast rattle. Raven rattles were used by wealthy families in secular ceremonies, although a few were found in shaman’s graves. The use of «chief ’s rattles» proclaimed the shaman’s high social rank to his public. It should also be remembered that raven taught both shamans and witches the secrets of their crafts, and it would therefore seem logical that shamans would employ a rattle depicting him during their performance. Most specialists believe that the protruding tongue held in the beak of the bird signifies a communication or transfer of power.
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Tlingit Figure

North America | Alaska

Tlingit Figure

Alaska

Tlingit shaman’s figure

Carved wood (red cedar), pigments and human hair
Early 19th century
Height: 8 ½ in. (22 cm)

Ex Sotheby’s Parke Bernet New York, 16 Oct. 1976 lot 136
Ex collection James Economos (1939-2019), Santa Fe
Ex collection James & Marilynn Alsdorf, Chicago, acquired from the above on April 3rd 1990

Illustrated: “The Box of Daylight, Northwest Coast Indian Art”, Bill Holm, pl. 200 p. 117, Seattle Art Museum, 1984

According to the Seattle Art Museum (see "The Box of Daylight, Northwest Coast Indian Art", Bill Holm), the supernatural powers available to Tlingit shamans took the form of spirits of humans and animals. They were notably represented in carved amulets such as the one presented here. These figurines were created for a variety of shamanic purposes including protection against illnesses.
This expertly and sensitively carved amulet stands with one hand raised as if holding a club to ward off enemies. It combines refinement and sheer power.

In terms of provenance, this figure was part of the celebrated Alsdorf collection in Chicago for close to 30 years.
Marilynn and James Alsdorf were prominent civic and cultural patrons of the East Coast art scene from the 1970s on. James Alsdorf was notably Chairman of the Art Institute of Chicago between 1975 and 1978. “We looked for objects to delight our eyes and souls....” said Marilynn Alsdorf.
This figure was previously sold by Sotheby Parke Bernet Inc. (Sotheby’s New York) on 16 Oct. 1976 lot 136
The Alsdorfs acquired it from the legendary art dealer & collector James Economos (1939-2019), Santa Fe on April 3rd 1990.

This shamanic figure was notably exhibited at the Seattle Art Museum in 1984 and published in Bill Holm’s "The Box of Daylight, Northwest Coast Indian Art" (pl. 200 p. 117)
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Tsimshian or Haisla Mask

North America | Canada

Tsimshian or Haisla Mask

Canada

Tsimshian or Haisla shamanic mask
Northwest Coast, British Columbia

Carved wood and pigments
19th century
Height: 11 ½ in. (29 cm)

Ex Morelle auction, expert Charles Ratton, catalogue cover, lot 27, Drouot, February 25th, 1980
Ex Gros & Delettrez auction, lot 216, Paris, May 26th, 1983
Ex collection Fernand Lafarge, France acquired from the above

For hundreds of years, human groups have lived on the shores of British Columbia on the Pacific Northwest Coast of Canada. These civilizations have developed cultures of an exceptional originality based on complex cosmogonies. Their systems of belief and healing, founded on shamanism, engendered powerful and intensely poetic forms of art.
With the Haida to the west, with whom they had frequent contact, the Tsimshian used masks at chiefly feasts, in winter dances, and in shamanic performances.
The first famous collector on the Northwest Coast was none other than Captain James Cook who gathered ethnographic materials as part of his general fact-finding endeavours in 1778.
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Anonymous

Early photographs

Anonymous

Totem Haida, Queen Charlotte
British Columbia, Northwest Coast
Circa 1900
Vintage albumen print

Height: 7 ¾ in.
Width: 5 ¾ in.

Inv. #Am-0819

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Anonymous

Early photographs

Anonymous

Totem and shaman Kwakiutl
British Columbia, Northwest Coast
Circa 1900
Vintage albumen print

Height: 6 in.
Width: 4 in.

Inv. #Am-0815

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