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Flaring mountain sheep horn feast bowl carved with early design complex | Donald Ellis Gallery
Frontal view of a mythical bird with re-curved beak carved on a mountain sheep horn bowl | Donald Ellis Gallery
Side view of a mountain sheep horn bowl with symmetric design of a mystical bird | Donald Ellis Gallery
Profile view of an outward flaring feast horn bowl with prominent recurved beak | Donald Ellis Gallery

Horn Bowl

Haida Gwaii, British Columbia

ca. 1840

mountain sheep horn

length: 4 ¾"

Inventory # N4455

Please contact the gallery for more information.


The Amy & Elliot Lawrence Collection, New York, NY



The Burke Museum, Seattle, WA, No. 1-3003 - See: Bill Holm, Spirit and Ancestor, Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1987, pl. 60 for a bowl by the same artist

Bill Holm, Box of Daylight, Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1984, pl. 123 for a bowl by the same artist

Seattle Art Museum, No. 85.356 - See: Steve Brown, The Spirit Within, New York: Rizzoli, 1995, pl. 44 for a ladle by the same artist

Feast bowls carved from mountain sheep horn are among the most technologically advanced creations from the Northwest Coast. The medium requires the artist to manipulate an extremely rough spiral horn of irregular thickness into a bilaterally symmetrical vessel. The hard outside must be carefully thinned down to reveal the soft interior of the horn, which is repeatedly boiled and carefully widened until the final shape exceeds the dimensions of the original horn. 

The artist of the graceful feast bowl illustrated here has perfected the long process of softening and shaping the medium, creating a particularly beautiful outward-flaring shape. The even thinness and symmetry of the present bowl are remarkable, its height, width and depth almost equal in size. The exterior of the bowl is masterfully carved with symmetric imagery, both ends showing avian faces with protruding recurved beaks. A second zoomorphic face emerges from the tufts of feathers at the top of the head. This, alongside finely grooved breast feathers, possibly indicate a horned owl, though a precise identification is not possible. The bird’s claws are tucked below elegantly carved wings along the sides of the bowl, the tips and talons converging at the centre. 

This commanding horn bowl is highly unusual in its diminutive scale, being just over four inches tall. Feast bowl were the personal belongings of high ranking community members, manifesting inherited family crests and the associated rights and privileges. The small scale of the present bowl suggests that it was used for individual, rather than communal consumption of fish or seal oils during great feasts. Compact in scale, this cleverly conceived and flawlessly executed feast bowl beautifully captures the whimsical appearance of a small bird.