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A delicate wooden Inupiaq portrait mask collected by Madeline Thomas Langworthy | Donald Ellis Gallery



late 19th century

wood, paint

height: 9 ¼"

Inventory # E4208-162

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Madeline Langworthy, Berkeley, California, collected in Alaska in the 1930's

This beautifully rendered mask is part of an important group of Inupiaq portrait masks collected in the 1930’s by the artist Madeline Thomas Langworthy (1893-1980). An avid collector of Inupiaq art, Langworthy enlisted the help of agents of the US Mercantile Co., who were able to acquire a number of portrait masks through their trade with remote Alaskan villages. Deeply set eyes and a slightly opened mouth lend an animated expression to the present portrait mask, further enhanced by a painted hairline and facial hair. The artist cleverly incorporated the qualities of the material in the conception of the mask, amplifying its elongated expression with the vertical grain of the wood. Langworthy treasured the documents and correspondence associated with the collection, among them Frederick J. Dockstader, then the Assistant Director of the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation, in New York City. These documents have all been preserved in digital form, adding a rich personal history to the Langworthy collection of Inupiaq portrait masks.