Yup’ik Mask

Archives | Alaska

Yup’ik Mask

Alaska

Yup’ik finger mask (Eskimo)

Wood, bear fur, natural pigments
Late 19th century, c.1880
Height : 4 ½ in. (11.5 cm)

Collected by John Edward Turner (Alaska Coastal Airlines)
Ex private collection, New York
Ex collection Jean-Paul Morin, France

Sold
This is a rare shamanic maskette with an anthropomorphic face carved from floating wood (probably cedar). The circular face is painted with red pigments rimmed with yellow
It depicts the "inua" (spirit) and was used during ritual shamanic ceremonies.

The Subarctic region inhabited by the Yup'ik is well supplied with land and sea resources allowing for much time that could be devoted to a full ceremonial life. After freezeup in the winter, performance cycles were undertaken that were important to maintaining proper human, animal, and spirit-world interactions. Performed inside the qasaiq (communal men's house) during festivals, dances feature face and finger masks that make visible the world of helping spirits and extraordinary beings, and are specially made to tell particular stories. Often used by shamans to facilitate communication and movement between worlds (human and animal, the living and the dead), Yup'ik masks usually were discarded after use.
Finger masks were used to further articulate the important hand movements.

The style and patina attest to the age and ritual nature of this finger mask that we can date back to the late 19th century, probably circa 1880. It was collected in Alaska by John Edward Turner (Alaska Coastal Airlines).

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