Skip to Content
E4180.jpg
Views

WHALE CHARM

Inupiaq
Northwest Alaska

ca. 1860

wood, glass beads
width: 15”

Inventory # E4180

Please contact the gallery for more information.


Fastened to the bow of the Umiak, these charms were believed to attract whales to the hunter’s craft (Fitzhugh, 1988)

PROVENANCE

Private collection, Seattle, WA

RELATED EXAMPLES

National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, Cat. No. 89817 - See: Fitzhugh, William, Crowell, Aron. Crossroads of Continents: Cultures of Siberia and Alaska. Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1988, pg. 168, pl 209 (right)

Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, Cat. No. 53424 – See: Ray, Dorothy Jean. Eskimo Art: Tradition and Innovation in North Alaska. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1977, pg. 92, fig. 21

University Museum, Philadelphia, Cat. No. NA 4788 – See: Collins, Henry B. De Laguna, Frederica. Carpenter, Edmund. Stone, Peter. The Far North: 2000 Years of Eskimo and Indian Art. Washington: National Gallery of Art, 1973, pg. 70, fig. 87

Essay

The bowhead whale was the most important source of food for the Inupiaq speaking people of northwestern Alaska.  As a result, elaborate rituals developed around the whale hunt to ensure the bounty of the harvest and the safety of hunters.  The failure of a village to successfully capture a whale could result in starvation or the resettlement of an entire community. This sensitively carved plaque would have been affixed to the bow of the hunter’s umiak to attract whales to his craft.

Previous
MASK E4208-165

Inupiaq
Alaska

mid 19th century
E4208-165
Next
MASK E4208-172

Inupiaq
Alaska

late 19th century
E4208-172
See more

Other

See All Inuit