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Magnificent copper painted with complex symmetric design elements - Donald Ellis Gallery


Haida or Tsimshian
Northern British Columbia

ca. 1860-80

sheet copper, paint

height: 28 ¼"
width: 19 ⅛"

Inventory # N4352



Truman Cummings Collection Sold at auction in July, 1976 Acquired by the vendor at the Quivira Shop, Santa Fe, NM circa 1981


This copper is likely by the same hand as N4336

Eugene and Claire Thaw Collection, New York State Historical Association, Cooperstown, NY, Cat. No. T715 – See: Coe, Ralph T., Brydon, Sherry, Vincent, Gilbert T. (eds.) Art of the North American Indians: The Thaw Collection. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2000, pgs. 344-345, for a Haida or Tsimshian copper collected by Surrealist Wolfgang Paalen in Haida Gwaii in 1939

Brooklyn Art Museum, Cat. No. 16.749.1 – See: Brown, Steven C. Spirits of the Water: Native Art Collected On Expeditions to Alaska and British Columbia 1774 – 1910. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2000, pg. 181

Seattle Art Museum, Cat. No. 91.1.55 – See: Brown, Steven C. The Spirit Within. New York: Rizzoli, 1995, pg. 115, pl. 42

The copper is among the most enigmatic objects created by Northwest Coast peoples. Although the origin of the form is unknown, coppers represent immense wealth and prestige from the south coast to Alaska. Extant coppers are made from commercial sheet metal presumed to have been traded from sources in the interior. Prior to European contact they would have been made from local native material however there is no indication that the later coppers were of less value than their predecessors (Holm, 1984). Whatever their origins, coppers were valued relative to large numbers of blankets and later dollars, and served as important emblems of wealth and prestige among the noble families who possessed them.