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Western Alaska

1200-1700 CE

marine mammal ivory

height: 3 ½"

Inventory # CE4282

Please contact the gallery for more information.


Private Collection, Belgium
Donald Ellis Gallery, Dundas, ON
Private Collection, Toronto, ON

While most pre-Inuit artistry has been applied to utilitarian objects such as harpoon heads and scrapers, representations of the human figure are among the few exceptions in which we are presented with stand-alone sculptural works. Many of these relatively small figures exhibit an extraordinary sense of monumentality that belies their diminutive size. The present example masterfully distills the human form by accentuating key features such as the head, torso, and legs. Eyes gazing upward, the facial features are sensitively rendered through three-dimensional carving as well as fine line incisions. The intention of the relatively large opening below the lips remains unclear, though it might have once held a filling or implement of special significance. Moreover, the figure lacks definable arms, a feature more commonly found among works dating from the Okvik period (300 BCE - 100 CE). Incisions along the shoulders and down the center of the torso might indicate clothing or tattoos. The upper and lower body is divided by a deep cut along the waistline. Enhanced by the smooth honey-brown patina, the present figural carving is both beautifully conceived and masterfully executed.