Yup’ik Mask

North America | Alaska

Yup’ik Mask

Alaska

Shaman’s mask
Kuskokwim Valley, Southern Alaska

Carved wood and pigments
Second half of 19th century
Height: 6 in. (15.5 cm)

Provenance:
Ex collection Charles Miles, Accession number in white ink: 5740
Ex collection Gary Spratt, California
Ex collection Merton Simpson, New York
Ex collection George Terasaki / Trotta-Bono, New York
Ex collection Fred Boschan, USA

Illustrated in:
Indian and Eskimo Artifacts of North America, Miles Charles, Bonanza Books, New York, 1963, p.150, fig.# 6.28.

Published: Faces, visible - invisible, April 2021
Exceptional Yupik Mask Half-Man / Galerie Flak Price on request
This is a highly stylized face with a particularly refined surface and sharply defined features. The mask has a monumental aspect and is an extraordinary sculptural accomplishment.
This white-faced mask may represent a lunar tunghak. In the Eskimo spirit world, a host of powerful, often malevolent mythical beasts are called the tunghat (sing. tunghak). Their home is on the moon, but they travel widely. These Keepers of the Game control the supply of fish and game animals, yet have little love for humans, who invade their spheres and kill the animals and fish under their protection, or offend them through improper behavior. The tunghat were invisible to all save the shamans, who alone could act as intermediaries with these formidable beings, who often play tricks on him, and conceal their real intentions. It is sometimes necessary for a shaman to fly to the moon, in order to implore the tunghak to intervene on the peoples’ behalf. A primary function of shamans is to placate the spirits of game animals by treating them with reverence after they have been killed and used, thereby persuading the animal’s spirits of the collective good intentions of the people. The tunghak is a shaman’s spirit helper with remarkable power.
Such tunghak masks have been called “man in the moon” as well as “mountain dwellers”. (see “The Living Tradition of Yup'ik Masks: Agayuliyararput, Our Way of Making Prayer" by Ann Fienup-Riordan).

Other examples of “half-face” masks are known within the limited corpus of shamanic masks of the Yup’ik, including examples in the collections of the Sheldon Jackson Museum in Alaska and the American Museum of Natural History in New York, both associated with a Hunter spirit, the mythical "Half-Man".

This mask has a remarkable pedigree. It was notably in the collection of two of legendary art dealers in New York, Merton Simpson and later George Terasaki.
Here is the full provenance:
Ex collection Charles Miles Collection, CA (Accession number in white ink: 5740)
Ex collection Gary Spratt, California
Ex collection Merton Simpson, NY
Ex collection George Terasaki / Ted Trotta-Bono, NY
Ex collection Fred Boschan, PA.
Ex private European collection
The mask is published in Indian and Eskimo Artifacts of North America
Charles Miles, Bonanza Books, New York, 1963, p.150, fig.# 6.28

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