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Haida feast bowl with glossy dark brown patina - Donald Ellis Gallery

Grease Bowl

Haida Gwaii, British Columbia

ca. 1840-1860


height: 6"
width: 5 ¼"

Inventory # N4181



Donald Ellis Gallery catalogue, 2003, pg. 6


Brown, Steven C. Native Visions: Evolution in Northwest Coast Art from the Eighteenth Through the Twentieth Century. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1998, pl. 4.34

Sturtevant, William (ed.) Boxes and Bowls: Decorated Containers by Nineteenth Century Haida, Tlingit, Bella Bella, and Tsimshian Indian Artists. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1974, pl. 65

Wooden bowls are among the most iconic works created by the Indigenous peoples of the Northwest Coast of North America. Large bowls, occasionally reaching twenty feet in length, were used to display and serve food during the great gift-giving feasts known as a potlatch. These bowls feature slightly bulging sides carved in relief with designs representing family crests. In contrast, small water-tight bowls were most often made to contain individual or family portions of eulachon a flavourful oil rendered from fermented candlefish. Because eulachon was considered such a delicacy among the Indigenous peoples of British Columbia, the top sides of the bowls were carved to bend inward to prevent spilling of their precious contents. Heavily impregnated with oil, the glossy surface appearance of the present dish testifies to its prolonged use on important social occasions. Masterfully carved in shallow relief, the slightly bulging sides display highly stylised formlines representing its owners’ family crests. 

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