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Dance Mask

Yup’ik 
Southwest Alaska

late 19th century 

wood, vegetal fibres
width: 13˝

Inventory # E3236

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Published

Donald Ellis Gallery catalogue, Toronto, ON, 2005; pg. 13

Provenance

George and Rosemary Lois, New York, NY
Donald Ellis Gallery, Dundas, ON
Private collection, Toronto, ON

Essay

This finely carved mask bears a remarkable resemblance to a pair of masks collected by A. H. Twitchell on the Kuskokwim River in the early decades of the 20th century. Twitchell, who had established a fur trading and mercantile business in the Kuskokwim region, collected a small, yet extraordinary group of Yup’ik masks.  He referred to this type of mask as representing “Amekak”  “... a spirit that lives in the ground [and] comes out at times but leaves no hole in the ground. The man then lies down and dies” (Fienup-Riordan 1996, pg. 120).

The similarities of style between the mask seen here, and the pair collected by Twitchell are readily apparent.  These include a thinly carved central face and delicately refined features such as tapered eyes forms, a finely shaped nose and tear-shaped nostrils.  These elegant features wonderfully combine in this  classic example of the Yup’ik masking tradition.

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DANCE MASK CE3534

Yup’ik 
Lower Yukon River, Alaska
likely the village of Sabotnisky

ca. 1870 
CE3534
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DANCE MASK CE4147

Yup’ik 
Lower Yukon, Alaska

ca. 1880
CE4147
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